Do I need a website? That’s the question.
I’ve seen a lot of posts recently, on various children’s activity groups, asking, “Should I have a website or not?” My answer to this is a simple one:
If I wanted to start a business tomorrow, in my local area, I could do it pretty quickly with just a Facebook page and a booking system. I’m confident I could get it off the ground and be successful without a website, because I know how to market classes at a local level using only Facebook and of course good will and word of mouth.
However if I intended to expand, grow organically quickly or scale up my business, either through franchising or employing a team, then a website would be pivotal to my marketing strategy. I talk about this in more detail in my ‘Developing an Integrated Marketing Activity System’ course.
I have always been more inclined towards the latter of the above two scenarios. As a business owner who wanted to grow my business, over the last 10 years I have paid to have 5 websites built by developers. Customer facing websites as my “Shop Window”, and training sites, designed primarily to provide franchisees with training material.
Now although I employed website developers, I always made it my mission to manage the back-end of all of my sites. I also made sure my developer provided me with the training necessary, in regard to management of those back-ends, so that I always had complete creative control of the front-end.
Fast forward to now and here I am, 10 years on, building my own website from scratch and I can do this is because I invested time and money in learning everything I could, whenever I could, when I started my journey into business ownership.
I’m using WordPress to build my Children’s Activity Business Academy website. It’s a very powerful platform which can at times feel overwhelming, but after years of practice I’m familiar with how it works. However, anybody that has been online for more than 5 minutes will know that there are lots and lots of companies/platforms out there which provide ready-made sites which require relatively minimal development work on your part. Wix and Squarespace, two sites that I have played with, are ones that spring to mind.
However having a custom site built for you by a developer is always an option, but it comes at a price. It is rarely a cheap experience and I would suggest you approach it knowing exactly what you want and of course that your business is viable, before you decide to go down this route.
But whatever option you choose, you need to have mapped out your website on paper before you start the process. Take a look at other provider’s websites and work out what you like and don’t like. Learn from others and let your creative juices flow.
When it came to designing my websites, my top priority was always to make it as easy as possible for my customers to book a place at our events, in the least amount of time. I didn’t want customers arriving at any of my sites, and having to hunt around for timetables and obscure ways to book.
People want an instant response online and get frustrated quickly when they don’t get one, causing them to bounce off a site.
What you want is for your customer to stay engaged, have secured a place on your programme quickly, happy and content in their experience, and their money in your bank account.
There are many other fundamental things to consider as well when your building your site. Media, content and solid, proof-read copy is vital, as is making notes on all of your design and technical decisions; You may need these later.
Top Tip: Make sure you have all your photography images ready to go. Ready-made templates look great because the photos/media look great. Remove those and you lose the effect and impact.Stock images can be fantastic when used right, but when creating your own brand identity, I would recommend getting professional real-life images taken of you and yours; A killer professional video to showcase your activity works wonders on a landing page.
Building a website can take time and what will hold you up is not having everything ready to go. This time is precious and if wasted, may prevent you from getting up and running quickly. Now back to my reasons for why I always made sure I had control over my websites. Like I said earlier, your website is pivotal to your marketing strategy; Think of it as your online shop window. When your potential customers hit that Google search button, you want to be on the first page, your shop window in lights with a sign up declaring, “I’m ready for business!”
This means you need to be dynamic and at times reactive. You need to be able to manage and control your website because you will need to be able to adapt your site to the constantly changing demands of the world, society and your customers. You need to be able to add content, such as blogs to drive organic traffic. You need to be able to edit pages and copy, and modify or build landing pages. You need to be able to upload videos, add Facebook Pixels or create a shop. The list goes on.
All of this can be done for you by a developer, but every time you want to make a change it’s going to cost you money. Money that you have worked hard for.
So why not just use Facebook? Firstly, and most importantly, new customers won’t be searching for you on Facebook. Yes it has unprecedented reach, but it’s not a search engine in the way Google or Bing is. You also don’t own it; Facebook could be taken away from you tomorrow. Your website however belongs to you, you own the domain and the media and content on your site. You can also run your own server if you chose to.
My advice to you, whether you’re starting out or already neck deep in your business, is that you learn about website development. Knowledge is power, and the more you know the greater your advantage over your competitors.
Give your website and social media handles a health check
So, if you have only a Facebook page, is it doing what you want? If you have a website, give it a health check. How easy is it for your customers to book? Do all your links work e.g. Facebook, Instagram etc. Is it mobile friendly?
If you have neither, then get your research hat on, get online with pencil and paper ready, and get scribbling. If you need someone to bounce ideas off and discuss how to get started then book a Discovery call today I’m happy to help.