Posts Tagged "small business"

Using Pictures to Enhance Your Website

Setting up a new website can be challenging, and one of the most common sticking points is the issue of visuals. A web space needs to be visually appealing in order to grab and hold a customer’s attention. Photographs enhance your site in many different ways, making them an ‘extra’ which no serious site can afford to be without. At our recommended hosts, you’ll find many examples of how visuals can make or break a site.

Connecting with Customers

Creating a personal connection through the internet can be a challenge. This is especially troublesome for small businesses, since many customers are wary of making a purchase from a virtually unknown seller. Although photographs can’t tell customers everything about you or your business, they can have a tremendous impact on consumer trust. Seeing the owner of a shop creates an immediate connection—you’re no longer just another faceless web space among millions. Showcasing yourself or your staff at work is even more powerful, as it lets consumers know that you stand behind the product or service you’re selling. The ‘fun factor’ is a nice bonus as well; people love seeing how things are made and created.

Regardless of the type of website you run, you can find a way to incorporate pictures. If your services are not traditionally photogenic, get creative. A shot of a harried, caffeine-fueled techno-genius hard at work over a keyboard will connect with consumers just as effectively as a lavish shot of a haute couture wedding cake.

Showcase What You Do

Remember that a photograph doesn’t have to include a person in order to be an effective marketing tool. A photo of you and your staff (if applicable) should be somewhere on your site—but feel free to incorporate shots of anything which makes your business tick. If you own a small restaurant, take some candid photos of the building itself. Capture a remodeling project as it happens. Bring your camera to the farmer’s market and score some pictures of the delicious produce you hand-select each morning. These ideas can be customized to fit virtually any type of website.

The People Behind the Service

Web-only services often fall prey to the boring web space trap. After all, they don’t have a storefront, a product, or any real-world items to showcase. However, this is always a mistake. A boring website, at best, tells consumers that you put very little effort into capturing their attention. At worst, it may make them think that you’re running a less-than-reputable business. Fight these negative assumptions by showcasing the people behind your service. Consider posting a staff photo and bio section, allowing consumers to see the real people behind the virtual service. You might include some shots of your workplace, even if it’s just a few cubicles or a cluttered home desk. Anything which lets a consumer connect with you is good for your bottom line.

Your Photos vs. Stock Photos

Stock photos are those available through retailers and wholesalers such as Shutterstock. These images are typically of very high quality, but they can quickly add up and become quite expensive. Thankfully, for most small businesses, stock photos are not necessary. In fact, they can actually be a hindrance to creating a personal consumer connection. So what if the stock-photo woman sitting at a cubicle is a bit better dressed than your employees? Your customers want to see the people behind the service, which stock photos simply can’t deliver.

The Bottom Line

In today’s world, no web space can be without some high-quality, personal photos. Remember that there’s no reason for perfection—customers just want their interest piqued, their curiosity satisfied and a personal connection created. You can probably do this with just your smartphone and a few filters—so get going! Your bottom line will thank you.

Taking Your Web Business to the Real-World

Businesses which are solely online have become increasingly more common. If you own this type of business, you already know just how convenient they are for owners and customers alike. However, there is another dimension you may not have considered—the real-world connection. Here, we’ll review how and why bringing your product real-world will benefit your online sales.

Start Small

There’s no reason to overwhelm yourself with a massive convention in your first real-world sales attempt. In fact, trying to take on one of these huge sales can actually be a recipe for disaster. Most small business owners simply aren’t prepared for sales on such a large scale, even if they’ve been selling online for years. Instead, start small by checking out sales in your local area.

Nearly every product and service can find an appropriate local outlet. If you’re a crafter, there are many craft fairs at churches, community centers and fairs. The more digitally-inclined can also find local venues—most major cities have their own, smaller version of the big, nationally-known conventions. Graphic arts and other techno-skills are ideally suited for these smaller conventions.

Bloggers may feel that their options are more limited, but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Whatever your web space subject matter might be, there is a show, convention or fair which caters to your topic. Food bloggers can visit a variety of locations, such as farmer’s markets, cooking schools and organic homesteads. Fashion bloggers can seek out up-and-coming designers in their area. Tech bloggers can visit local conventions and find the latest and greatest local innovations. In short, there is an endless supply of potential real-world topics for every blogger, most of which are only a short drive from home.

The Main Benefit: Personal Connections

Regardless of what your online business might be, the main benefit of going real-world is the unique chance to connect personally with your customer base. People are more likely to purchase a product which they’ve had a chance to try out in person. Once they’ve met you and seen what you have to offer, they’re also more likely to feel confident trying out new products and services via your web space. Our top picks give you plenty of options on how to link real-world featured products to your site and increase those sales figures.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that real-world connections are becoming outdated in today’s society. While online shopping is hugely popular, connecting personally is a basic human instinct which will never go away. By meeting and impressing your client base in the real world, your online sales and traffic will reap the benefits. For most online small business owners, the time spent at these events is well worth it, and repaid several times over in online sales and traffic volume.

Getting Started

If the idea of taking your online business makes you nervous, you’re not alone. Thankfully, there’s no need to jump in all at once. Your web space will benefit from even a short visit to a farmer’s market, tech convention or fashion show. You’ll become more familiar with what works—and what doesn’t—with your target market, which is the ultimate marketing tool. Before you plan to actually sell or blog about a ‘field trip,’ take one on your own and soak up the atmosphere. Talk with vendors and customers, see what’s offered for sale, and evaluate how your own product or service stacks up. The knowledge you take away from just one event will translate into increased sales and traffic if applied properly, so get out there and start making connections!

Why Your Small Business Needs Web Space

When many small business owners take their first steps into realizing their dreams, web space is the last thing on their minds. This is understandable, but it’s also a huge mistake. Here, we’ll address why you need web space and what that site will ultimately do for you.

Real World vs. Online

A common misconception among new small business owners is that their restaurant, store or other real-world place of business will be all they need to establish themselves. Unfortunately, the days when this was true are long gone. In today’s world, where consumers can do virtually anything online, the lack of an internet presence can be a huge disadvantage. The online community has become part of the ‘real world,’ and your business needs to be a part of that world.

Consumer Trust

Years ago, it was considered a big red flag if a company did not have a phone number displayed someplace in their storefront, catalog or on their product. This displayed a lack of openness, and made many customers wary of trusting the company.

These days, the lack of a web space has precisely the same effect. Imagine that your friend stumbles across a brand-new restaurant, has an incredible dining experience and tells you about their discovery.  You’ll almost certainly look the restaurant up online. You may just be seeking directions, but there’s a good chance you’ll also want to read reviews and the menu. You’ll also be expecting, consciously or not, a few photos of the restaurant and perhaps the proprietor.

What if you found nothing? No website, no pictures, not even a Facebook page. How would you feel about trying out this new restaurant? If you’re like many diners, you might feel a bit wary, wondering precisely why there is no internet ‘evidence’ of this restaurant. Is it dodging a health-code violation from another area? In all likelihood, you would pass up the chance to check it out, sticking with a dining establishment you either know or can check out online in advance.

This pattern of thinking is true for virtually all types of businesses. Consumers have come to equate web space with a certain level of credibility. Given the simplicity of setting up a basic web page, there is no excuse for losing potential customers over the lack of a website. Browsing our recommended hosts will give you an idea of just how much a well-structured website can do for your business.

Consumer Convenience

In addition to trust, consumers greatly appreciate the extra level of convenience which a well-planned website can offer. In the case of a restaurant, they can read through the menu before they leave the house and, if necessary, make reservations online to save time. Other businesses can save customers time by offering e-commerce options, allowing them to purchase goods and services from the comfort of their own homes. These simple conveniences are huge when it comes to fostering a good relationship with consumers. As a society, we’ve become accustomed to the ease and convenience of online shopping, and no small business can afford to deny that convenience to their customers, would-be or otherwise.

Conclusion

Regardless of how small or new your business may be, you need web space. It adds to your credibility, fosters consumer trust and makes it more convenient for consumers to purchase from you. Social media sites are great additions to a business, but they can’t replace the reliable, trustworthy impression which a stand-alone website can create. Get started today. Our comparison tool is a great place to begin.

 

How to Keep Visitors Returning to Your Site

If you follow some basic ‘getting started’ guidelines, your web space will attract visitors in several different ways. While attracting customers is definitely a huge component of your success, retaining those customers is equally important. Here, we’ll review some simple strategies for visitor retention.

Keep it Fresh

Nobody likes returning to a web space to find the exact same content they viewed on their last visit. It sends an unprofessional message, which is the last thing you want to convey. To prevent this, simply keep things updated. If you host a blog, make posts on a regular—and frequent—schedule. Respond to visitor comments and questions as quickly as possible. Upload new pictures regularly, even if they’re as simple as the front of your restaurant in different seasons. Regularly updated content sends the message that you are a thriving, bustling business—even if you’re just getting started.

Keep it Attractive

Eye appeal is huge in the world of online business, and your web space needs to compete. Invest the time and money in creating a web space which is fun to look at, right down to the backgrounds and text fonts. Use as many pictures as is appropriate, ensuring that they are of the highest quality. Today, your phone and a free photo-editing app can produce a professional-quality picture, so there’s no excuse for fuzzy, blurry or poorly structured shots. In addition, update those photos on a regular basis to give visitors something new to look at each time they return.

Keep it Personal

Nobody likes doing business with a nameless, faceless corporation—this is why the world of commerce is trending backward and returning to small businesses. Take full advantage of this trend and connect personally with your visitors in every possible manner. Choose the interactive features which best suit your business and maintain them properly. Respond to comments and questions quickly and professionally. If at all possible, take your business real-world, advertise this event on your web space and connect with your customers in person. Anything you can do to connect personally will foster new customer connections and enhance existing ones, so put yourself out there!

Keep it Exciting

One of the most time-honored methods of attracting and enhancing customer relations is a contest. You can offer contests to your visitors in a number of ways. Bloggers can offer the chance for a visitor’s own writing to be featured. Service providers can offer a small service for free. Crafters, product-centered bloggers and restaurant owners can offer a free lunch, beauty product bundle or gift package. Contest options truly are limitless, so don’t be afraid to get creative. You can offer your prizes in a traditional random-draw scenario, as a reward for the best answer to a posed question, or in any manner which complements your unique business. Viewers—even those who haven’t entered your contest—will keep returning to view new entries and, eventually, see who won the prize!

Conclusion

Return business is the foundation of any successful web space. Visitors who stop by once and never come back aren’t going to do anything for your bottom line, so make it your mission to keep them coming back for more. Check out our highest recommendation today for hosting plans loaded with affordable and retention-minded features!

Is Facebook Enough for Your Small Business?

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube are websites familiar to virtually everybody. In addition, they’re completely free of charge. While this makes them very attractive to cash-strapped small business owners seeking to create web space, there are some very important points to consider. Here, we’ll discuss precisely what social media sites can, and can’t, do for your small business.

Enough is Not Enough

The first basic mistake in assuming that a social media presence is ‘enough’ for your small business is the concept of settling for ‘enough.’ Your business is your baby, your dream, your ambition. Do you really want to settle for ‘enough?’ While your business may not be ready for a completely interactive, visually stunning website which rivals those of major, nationally-known companies, it deserves more than ‘enough.’ Even our budget picks can deliver highly professional and traffic-generating sites, so there’s no excuse to linger on social media.

Consider Your Image

Social media sites are attractive for many reasons, one of the largest being their cost—nothing. However, this also means that social media is literally teeming with pages and accounts. The public perception of social media sites varies widely from one individual to the next. Although your Facebook page may be leaps and bounds ahead in terms of content and quality, it’s still a Facebook page, just like your best friend’s tenth-grade daughter maintains.

Taking Full Advantage

This is not to say that social media doesn’t have its place. In fact, social media can be an incredibly powerful and positive tool for your small business. It’s all in how you utilize the resource. Facebook is an excellent platform for many different types of marketing, from posting photos to hosting contests to keeping fans abreast of the latest developments. Twitter and Instagram are excellent for keeping customers in-the-know without bogging them down with an overload of information; they’re also great for keeping your business fresh in the minds of consumers. Pinterest, with its photo-showcase potential, can be a truly powerful way to show off the best of your visual assets. Think up creative themes for boards and view them as a way to entertain and inform your consumers.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when maintaining a social media presence for your business is to remain professional. If you have personal accounts, keep them entirely separate from your business web space. You may adore pop music, but some of your customers may not, and seeing a long line of Gaga and Bieber attached to your page can look unprofessional. When using your business accounts, keep things professional, including views, likes, links and every other type of virtual ‘trail.’

The Next Step

As wonderful as social media sites are, they simply can’t replace the solid, trustworthy impression of a stand-alone website. Anybody can create a social media page or account—a stand-alone web space shows that you’re serious about, and dedicated to, your business and your customers.

Build your website using the same themes you’ve picked up from using social media networks. Keep things interesting, interactive and engaging. Update the content of your site regularly to keep it from falling into the dreaded ‘dead’ category.

At the same time, maintain your social media presence with the same level of dedication. Social media is not enough for your small business, but it’s a completely cost-free tool which no small business owner can afford to ignore. A great way to set your social media pages apart from the rest is to link them back to your website. This can be done in a variety of ways, and for a variety of reasons. Choose the methods which best complement the type of business you’re in, and remember to keep things professional. Get started today by browsing our recommendations, and rise above the social media crowd!