Things to Consider When Planning Your Small Business Website
Planning is essential for any small business or organization. In the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”
Planning is required to:
- create a successful business plan and marketing strategy;
- create and manage a budget;
- manage operational changes;
- adapt to changes from customers or competition; and
- achieve a long list of other objectives critical your business’ success.
When it comes to your website – arguably one of the most critical elements of your marketing strategy and best ways to create an online presence – it goes without saying that you should plan properly too!
However, many website projects suffer for one simple reason:
Failure to plan.
Of course, the operational demands of running a small business often make it easy to deemphasize the importance of planning. Sometimes businesses may think planning isn’t necessary because the new website isn’t very large or complex. They might also underestimate the expertise, time and energy required to build even a small, or relatively simple, website.
This post will guide you through some fundamental questions to answer before building a small business website. This is by no means a comprehensive guide, but hopefully should get you thinking more about the importance of planning for your small business website project. Getting questions like these right in the planning stages can help increase the likelihood of success of not only the website project but also its ability to help drive marketing and sales goals after launch.
Identify the Purpose of Your Website
The purpose of a website for most small businesses is to drive sales. Websites also play a role in engaging and educating visitors, and this shouldn’t be forgotten, but ultimately most businesses want to drive website visitors toward a purchase in one way or another. Figure out exactly what it is you’d like your website to achieve for you.
What action(s) do you want website visitors to take and how will you measure them?
Here are some common examples:
- Purchase a tangible or digital product directly from the website
- Request more information about products or services by submitting a form or making a phone call
- Request education or promotional content by submitting a form to download it
- Sign up for a free trial
- Sign up to receive the latest product updates, news or other content by email
When identifying the most important actions you want website visitors to take, you should also ensure you have a plan for measuring and tracking them. After all, your marketing and promotional strategies should be designed to drive these actions on your website. The more information you have about how effectively your marketing efforts result in these actions, the better equipped you are to make decisions about how and where it will be best to spend your marketing dollars.
Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager are basic tools most marketers use to help track important actions visitors take. If you’re planning to make email a component of your marketing strategy, you might need to research tools like MailChimp and find out how your email automation platform will integrate with other software or systems used in your business processes.
Develop Your Differentiated Value Proposition
Hopefully you already have this checked off the list by the time you’re ready to build your website, but it’s still important to make sure your value proposition is unique and clearly worded. A differentiated value proposition is something your business needs not just for a website, but for all your marketing and communications efforts. Think about the ways you might translate your value proposition into headings and copy appropriate for the medium of the web.
A value proposition is essentially:
A positioning statement that explains what benefit you provide to who and how you do it uniquely well. The key word being uniquely.
You should be able to answer questions such as:
Who will benefit from your products and services?
What problem do you solve for them?
What do you offer that no one else can?
People need a clear reason to research your products or services and eventually (hopefully) make a purchase decision. You will typically need to be differentiated in some way from the competition in order for prospective customers to choose you as the best solution.
When coming up with your differentiated value proposition, you may explore statements using phrases like these to distinguish yourself from competitor offerings:
- the best
- the most
- the only
- the fastest
- the lowest cost
- the first
Alternatively, your value proposition may be differentiated by communicating your brand’s unique values, commitment to solving a particular problem or customer service and support. Your brand might also separate itself from competitors by its focus or commitment to a particular group of users or a specific target audience.
Here are some examples:
Unbounce – The Conversion Platform for Marketers
Unbounce is the easiest way to build and test custom landing pages, website popups and sticky bars. Improve your post-click conversion rates and launch more campaigns, fast.
These statements highlight Unbounce as the platform of choice specifically for marketers looking for ways to build and test marketing campaigns without having to rely on a developer or someone who knows code in order to fully take advantage of the suite of features and functionality available.
Uber – The Smartest Way to Get Around
Uber is the smartest way to get around. One tap and a car comes directly to you. Your driver knows exactly where to go. And payment is completely cashless.
While Uber may deservedly come under scrutiny for some of its business practices and get plenty of bad press, one thing it got right is creating a unique value proposition. The above statements concisely and clearly spell out the reasons why someone should use a service like Uber over traditional taxi services.
Why is It Important to Get Your Value Proposition Right?
Your value proposition should carry over into most other aspects of your business, so it’s important to get it right from the start. It is fundamental to how you plan to market your brand and how you sell, whether person to person or online.
If you’re planning to create a website, your value proposition should help shape the content and messaging that will be visible on the site. Tag lines, headlines and copy are aspects of the website that provide good opportunities to instill your value proposition.
Here are some examples of website tag lines and headlines that convey aspects of these brands’ unique and differentiated value proposition:
- Start Shaving for Just $1
- No Risk. All Reward.
- Build Fast – Without Having to Rely on Developers
- Connects with More Apps Than Anyone Else
- The Link Knows All. So Can You.
- Unleash the Power of the Link
- Harness Every Click, Tap and Swipe
Where Does Your Value Proposition Go on Your Website?
Your value proposition should be featured prominently on your website, but it doesn’t need to go everywhere. Typically, part or all of your value proposition should be presented prominently on your homepage. An About page is another place you might consider displaying your value proposition because, well, people typically visit this page to learn what your brand does and what makes you unique.
Much like the above examples of headlines, you may find adapting and varying your value proposition to be used in shorter headings and messaging for different pages helps make it more readable and consumable on the web.
So far, we’ve covered the importance of recognizing the purpose of your website and having a unique value proposition. Answering these key questions will help inform the content and page structure of your website. On the other hand, defining your brand’s personality helps to define the voice, style and tone guidelines used on your website.
Different mediums also require different ways of speaking. Twitter is an obvious example, as communication takes a form more closely resembling chat around the watercooler. Your website, on the other hand, will likely require more direct and informational ways of speaking in comparison. When you plan to build your website, don’t forget to think about the other digital channels you plan to use as well and how your brand’s voice and tone should adapt.
Here are some questions and examples that may help:
What is your brand’s personality and preferred vocabulary?
Do you want people to view your brand as honest and friendly? Practical and economical? Knowledgeable and reliable? Funny and laid back? Developing the right personality for your brand can help you build a strong emotional connection with your audience and influence adoption and loyalty.
What is your preference on spelling, punctuation, capitalization and abbreviations?
If you already have style guidelines and standards for using the written word on other customer-facing materials, you want to make sure your website is consistent with them. If not, this is a good opportunity to establish some consistency moving forward. Communicating these preferences in the planning phase of your website could also help save you from having to request numerous edits later.
How should readers imagine your brand when reading the copy?
Think of your brand as a fictional character. How does he or she behave? Are they similar to your users/customers or different in any ways? Where do they work? What are their interests? What do they do on the weekend? What is their drink of choice?
These and similar questions can help you determine guidelines for the tone and voice your brand should use and the best way to convey that on the website.
Choose the Right Tone and Voice for the Situation
Keep in mind that your brand’s tone and voice may change depending on the interactions users have with your brand.
This guide on voice and tone from MailChimp does a nice job of illustrating how your voice and tone might change depending on what your users or customers are feeling. It presents some helpful tips on how voice and tone should change in different scenarios, and why. Their content style guide is also a pretty extensive and helpful resource as well.
Getting Started Planning Your Website
Hopefully this post has helped you to start thinking through some important questions when planning your website and provided some examples for illustration and inspiration. When you work with your marketing team, digital agency or web developer to plan your website, make sure they are spending some time to gain an understanding of how your brand answers these questions.
Being able to communicate this information well and arrive at a shared knowledge with all team members involved in the project can go a long way toward making the content creation and design/development phases of the site more efficient and streamlined.
If you’re looking to build your small business website and don’t know where to start, give us a shout and we’d be happy to start the conversation and provide our thoughts and recommendations to start planning your small business website.