I have a website – now what?

How exciting! Your first website!

Yep, its looking great, it does every thing you want it to do: from offering online appointment scheduling, to a members only area, to links to your Youtube / Vimeo videos, to a live feed from your Twitter account, to displaying your beautiful things for sale, to having a shopping cart for selling downloadable information. AWESOME!

But now what?  You sit there staring at the computer screen and checking your email waiting for something to happen……nothing happens. Why not?

“If you build it, [they] will come”, à la Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones, is unfortunately not the case with websites. People need to know you have a website. Makes sense, but how do you do that?

Here are some suggestions, based on my study of marketing for the last ten years.  Do note that this is NOT a comprehensive list – this is an overview.

 There is no “one size fits all” – except that EVERYONE must do some form of marketing to stay in business.

Here’s my list:

The basics – get the website address (aka url) on your business cards, your letterhead, your business signage, your magnetized car sign, the jacket of your self-published book, basically anything printed, and then your social media accounts and your outgoing business email signature.

Yes, its ok to tell your friends and family about your new website.  Be generous though and offer to feature their website, hobby, business or website in a blog post or a free ad.  Maybe one of them is an aspiring author and they could write some “guest articles” about your topic for you. This is win-win as both parties get exposure and backlinks, and lets face it, when the challenges of life knock on your door, who is standing beside you?  Family and Friends.  Be good to each other and reciprocate! For example, my big brother Joel has a bazillion awesome ideas for using websites and occasionally sends clients my way – he’s a mortgage broker in Oregon State if you are in need of re-financing, mortgages or connections into the Real Estate market there, give him a shout. (see, reciprocity at work).

If the website is for a “side-gig”, what about telling your co-workers? Well, for some, that may work.  If your side-gig is in competition with your main-gig, I say “Don’t do it” legal troubles could land at your door step. If your side-gig is in the same industry and doesn’t compete with your main-gig, be very, very cautious about telling your co-workers but it might be ok outside of working hours – so long as you don’t have a clause in your contract that prohibits you from side-gigs (and if you do have a clause like that, what are you thinking?!  Get some legal advice right away).  If your side-gig has nothing to do with your main gig, then it should be ok if you are respectful and do it outside of working hours and again, if you don’t have a prohibition clause in your contract.

Referral business models have an interesting intersection with websites. Because you are/have been growing your business “organically, through word of mouth”, you may think you don’t need a website.  The truth is, common practice is now that you will be asked, “oh, do you have a website where I can learn more?” Or, people will be given your name and the first thing they do is go look you up on the internet, right? All around the world, people have now been trained to look things up on the internet before they commit to moving forward with their purchase decisions.  See that smartphone?  Instant gratification for Q & A – bet you do that yourself don’t you?  My point is, there is comfort (and possibly a bit of superiority complex) in believing that your business doesn’t need a website or marketing plan. Staying in business or growing your business will require you to step out of your comfort zone.  Use your website to support your referral business – having even one page that explains your services and provides a contact form means that you can share it, your tribe can share it, and your prospective clients can share it.

Create integration with the rest of the world wide web because, as John Donne wrote  “No man is an island, entire of itself;…”.  Basically, the internet works because we create relationships between a wide variety of websites – like I have done in this article.  The goal is natural writing that can be enhanced by links to other websites that support your writing, is pertinent to your writing and isn’t just a page filled with random links to websites that have nothing to do with what you are writing about.  Sometimes people will put a disclaimer that they get paid if you click on a link (for example, see the bottom of my blog post Thoughts on Exploring internet security) – full disclosure is important.  Then there are strategies for getting other websites to link to yours, called “backlinks”. For example, Gotch SEO has a new guide for 2018 that is a good overview for those wanting to explore an active campaign to get other websites to link to your website (I’m not paid for this link – just liked his stuff).

That brings us to Search Engine Optimization. Just because you have a website, it does not mean it will automatically show up in popular search engine website services like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask.com, DuckDuckGo, as well as non-western based search tools like Baidu in China. There are basic things that your website developer should do when creating your website, but beyond that, there is an entire world out there chasing the magic of getting into the first page of search results. Indeed, like Gotch SEO mentioned in the last paragraph, there are companies that you can pay that will work with you and your website team to take your website to a new level.  If you want to learn techniques for maximizing your marketing efforts using your website, I recommend that you start with one of the original SEO guides from the Moz  which is updated regularly. Ironically, you can also use the search engine tools to search for search engine optimization techniques. There are a lot out there – just beware of what techniques will get you blacklisted by the search engines themselves.

Next to discuss is, “social media”, which is now a catch-all term for a plethora of online tools that people use to share information and connect with one another.  I have already mentioned Youtube, Vimeo, and Twitter.  There is also Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, Reddit, Yelp, Tumblr, Digg and the list goes on.  But I will not.  Because that’s way too many links.  The point I make to anyone who asks me, is, use the social media outlet that both matches your business and your comfort, at least at first.  For example, if you already use Facebook, one of the most highly used social media channels, then it isn’t too far of a stretch to learn how to use their business tools.  If your business is visual, then you are going to want to consider Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, Youtube, etc. If you are offering professional business services, then something like Linkedin, which you may already be on, is an excellent choice.  You may have hoped I’d tell you which one to use.  I’m not going to because I admit, I am not a social media expert.  There are lots of people out there who offer that service though, and depending on your marketing aspirations, you may be well advised to track one down.

The bottom line though, is to use your presence on any of those social media sites to send people to your website, which you control, and sell them something, give them something, or get their contact details.

Lastly, I’d like to discuss email marketing.  My son thinks I’m nuts to continue to recommend that people use email marketing. He claims that young people don’t use email any more.  That may be true from his teen experience, however, email marketing is used in business because it still works and converts followers into customers. And, in contrast with social media, YOU OWN YOUR LIST OF CONTACTS and your marketing plans won’t be smashed by a social media company changing the rules in the middle of your marketing efforts (yes, that happens – do a search about the affect when services like Facebook change the rules).  If you want an extensive, data driven review of email marketing for 2018, try this article from SmartInsights.com.  As with any of the strategies already mentioned, the best results come from a plan. That, and knowing what your legal responsibilities are.  Canada has federal Anti-Spam legislation and Privacy legislation. The United States of America has the CAN-SPAM Act.  And the list goes on – here’s a link to an awesome infographic that explores international email law.  I’d like to add, that automation is your friend when it comes to email marketing.  There is no need for you to stumble around in your computer trying to automate your email marketing.  Like Social Media and SEO, there are companies that do a superlative job helping you use email marketing to get people to your website and your services.  Check out WPBeginner’s list for small business  or explore deeper and wider using Capterra

Are there other methods of sending people to your website?   Undoubtedly.  As I mentioned, I didn’t set out here to give you a comprehensive education on marketing in 2018.  My hope for you is that you first of all recognize that you must do marketing if you are serious about owning a business.  Secondly, I hope you got some hints as to what might work for you, and that you found some links that will help you to explore your options. If you want specific help, certainly you can book a time with me.

Good luck with your marketing efforts – and remember, if you start feeling overwhelmed by it all, go back to the basics of what you know how to do, create a plan and start from there.  You can also book a time with me to discuss your marketing strategy needs, or to get some coaching – I’ll ask you the tough questions that you won’t ask yourself.