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Rethinking the Small Business Website

By John McTigueAug 6, 2009

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.

1995 - 2000: The Internet Bubble

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.

2000 - 2007: The Bubble Burst and the Emergence of Business Sites

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.

2007 - Present: The Brave New World

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?

New Age Web Design

  1. Branding identification is still important, so the design must convey who you are, what you sell, and why the visitor should choose you. Sites are becoming leaner, more focused on the consumer and less narcissistic.
  2. Websites are becoming branded blogs, since blogging is a primary tool in inbound marketing and social media marketing.
  3. E-commerce is still important and takes center stage if you sell online.
  4. Your Web site is the best place to measure Internet marketing ROI, via traffic and conversions. Search engines (SEO), while still important, are quietly being replaced by social media sites. Inbound marketing drives willing consumers to your landing pages to engage in conversation and/or purchase, something that search engines could never do.
  5. What about the design? Business owners and Web designers still love the Flash intro's and lots of graphics. Consumers couldn't care less. They want information, communication and value. If you need a fancy design to deliver those things, go for it. Otherwise, if I were you, I'd focus on delivering the goods. Make your blog up-front-center. Make your landing pages easy to understand and easy to convert your visitors to a customers. Create great presences on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media channels and work them consistently in concert with your Web site.

Now you're up-to-date. We'll see what comes next...

 

Additional Topics: Content and Design
The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.
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