As small businesses learn about and begin to employ inbound marketing and social media sites for branding and customer relations, it raises the question "where does my website fit in?" A new strategy is emerging, one that emphasizes a multichannel approach to marketing through social media and blogging. The traditional small business website is being overhauled to become a focal point for this consumer-centric strategy.
Let's review where we've been in small business website design and development during the past 15 years.
In the mad rush to cash in on the wave of Internet businesses, companies gobbled up all of the domain names and slapped up anything resembling HTML to attract the hoards of daily visitors to places like Amazon.com and Yahoo. There was little thought about branding and the use of web sites as anything but get-rich-quick schemes.
As nearly every small business Web portal and most e-commerce sites lay smoldering at the end of the 90's, larger companies began to see the Web as an extension of their branding efforts, and small businesses began to follow. By the end of this period, if your company didn't have a professional-looking "brochure site" tied in with the rest of your corporate branding, you were in trouble. E-commerce sites began to re-emerge as important alternatives to conventional shopping, driven by consumer desire for convenience, especially during holidays. Towards the end of this period, companies began to embrace Web sites as more than an electronic brochure, with daily updates driven by content management systems and Web applications. A new wave was coming, based on consumer desire for interactivity and instant communication. Blogs started to pop up everywhere and a strange new beast, the social networking site was gaining popularity.
Enter a new world where consumers have turned business communications on its head. It's no longer sufficient to broadcast your message via TV, radio, print media and the Internet. Your customers want a relationship with you prior to purchase. They want recommendations from their peers and a chance to canvass the world for opinions about your products and services. Last, but not least, they want you involved in the conversation. No more hiding behind brand or conventional one-way communication. Not going to cut it anymore. So where does that leave the small business website?
Now you're up-to-date. We'll see what comes next...