Are any of these true for you?
- You’re starting a business, and know you need a website as part of your marketing tools. The problem? You have no idea where to start.
- Your business is up and running but your website is meh. It doesn’t feel like you, and isn’t working hard to connect you with your customers and bring you leads.
- You know you need a website, but aren’t clear on what your website needs to do – and why.
If that sounds like you, read on, my friend. By the end of this blog post, you’ll be on your way to website genius status. (Woot! Woot!)
Your website has a job to do. Three jobs, in fact. And if your website isn’t doing its jobs, it’s not helping you make money.
You probably know I teach business foundations at a university and a non-profit as well as through my own online training program, She Gets Business.
My students are pretty much split between people who are just starting their business and people who have been at it for a while but are struggling to make the money they need and want. We focus on the foundations because having a strong foundation is what makes your business scalable and profitable!
One of the foundational things my students constantly ask for help with marketing – something I love to teach! It’s a big subject, so for this blog post, I’m focusing on online marketing, and specifically, your website ecosystem.
Many people think their website is basically an online brochure for their business. Not so!
Your website has 3 main jobs:
- To clearly tell people what you sell, and for whom
- To visually communicate a brand vibe that will attract new leads
- To capture new leads so you can nurture them into paying customers
If you already feel your website is doing all that, awesome! But if you’re not quite there, I can teach you how to get the same results.
In this blog post, I teach you the 3 things you need to know to have a website that works hard for your business.
(And in my next blog post, I’ll teach you how to choose someone to help you, and share with you some awesome resources. ::fist bump::)
Ready to build your online marketing mojo? Let’s get started…
To make sure your website is working hard for you, you need to know these 3 things:
# 1 – WHO YOUR CUSTOMER IS, AND WHY THEY WANT WHAT YOU SELL
This is always step #1, for everything you do in your business. On the surface, this seems so basic it’s not worth mentioning. But what I’ve found in teaching hundreds of business-builders is most people don’t actually know what their customers want and need – and how they can deliver it!
Why is this important? So many reasons! Understanding your customer means:
- You can develop products and services that people need and want to buy
- You can emotionally connect with them. The language you use in your marketing – including your website – needs to attract your target customer and makes them feel understood. When you use the same natural language your customer does, s/he will think “Wow, this person gets me!” and they’ll be eager to work with you.
- You create raving fans, happy to tell others about your brilliance. Because you “get them”, you can help them where they need it – and they’ll tell others who need you, too.
# 2 – YOUR WEBSITE “ECOSYSTEM”
When I first started my coaching + training business, I didn’t have a website. I knew I needed one, but I felt frustrated because I didn’t understand how to even get started! I just had to suck it up and learn it.
Now I have a website that is truly working for my business. It authentically communicates who I am and what I do. My technology choices work seamlessly, and I get new leads – people interested in my classes – every day. And best of all? When I need to make changes, I can, and when I need help, I know how to get it.
Your website is part of an ecosystem: your domain, your website, your plugins, your host, your email marketing service. But what does that actually mean? Let’s break it down.
Your domain name
Your website is what a customer looks at. The design – the look + feel – is driven by the templates that you choose, and different website tools have different templates.
How your website is built relates to how easy it is for people to find you on the web. This is called search engine optimization, or SEO.
Prospective customers will often find a business by using a search engine tool like Google and use natural language to find what they need. For example, let’s say I wanted to find a company that sells natural skin care products. I might search for “Best natural skin care products” and see what Google shows me.
If you’re the company selling that stuff, you want it to be super easy for people to find you. That means when they search for what you sell, you’re on the first page of results, and high up on the page. That’s called “search ranking”, and you want to choose a website platform that helps you get found easily.
Your website is made of a bunch of files. Your host is where your website/web pages “live”. This is what enables your website to be seen by customers. These website files are hosted (or “stored”) on special computers called servers.
Your hosting company owns these servers, and are responsible for making sure that these servers – and your website – are up and running. They are also responsible for keeping your website secure (see ya, hackers!) by keeping the server software up to date with the latest and greatest anti-hacker security.
Plugins are extra tools that can be added to your website to do certain things. On my website, I have plugins to protect my website from hackers, show my Instagram feed, and most importantly, capture the email addresses of new leads that get delivered to my email marketing service!
Your email marketing service
Many new business-builders send marketing emails using a personal email, not knowing that this is illegal! Spam laws require you to use an email marketing service that enables people to “opt in” – give you explicit permission to market to them – and enables them to “opt out” – take that permission away. Businesses can and do get fined for not following these laws!
Equally importantly, your website and email marketing service are connected to deliver new leads from your website to your email marketing service. This is called “your list”. Your list is a fundamental piece of your marketing because it’s full of people who have asked to hear from you and are interested in what you have to offer!
Already have a website? Then you should also know exactly what tools are in your ecosystem, including login names, passwords, and how much you pay per month.
#3 – HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR WEBSITE ECOSYSTEM TOOLS
Now that you understand the ecosystem, you can make the right choices for your business.
Your domain name
If you plan to use Squarespace for your website, then you can buy your domain from Squarespace.
If you’re using WordPress, then I recommend Namecheap. (And NOT GoDaddy.) Namecheap makes it super easy to search for, buy and manage your domain names.
Most domains will cost you $7 – $12 per year.
If you have a business that truly simply needs to communicate name, address, hours, and brand vibe – think restaurants or cafes or nail salons – then I recommend Squarespace. Squarespace offers many simple drag-and-drop templates that create clean, beautiful websites. And you can get started for as little as $12/month.
You might also hear people talk about Wix or Weebly. I do not recommend these, because these platforms are very limited in terms of what you can do for design, and also do not perform as well for SEO. (I’ve heard this from countless people who create websites day in, day out, and know a ton about SEO. The only people who tell me differently are people who make a living creating websites with Wix or Weebly!)
But if you have a business that requires more of a conversation with your customer to create leads and convert to a sale, then I recommend WordPress. (And note that’s WordPress.com, not WordPress.org. With .org, you are the host. You don’t want that.)
WordPress is widely regarded as the industry standard for design options and SEO.
With WordPress, you can choose from a variety of frameworks or themes that essentially create the look and feel of your website. If you are game to DIY, a good theme to choose is called Divi by Elegant Themes. But if you’re hiring someone, then you’ll want to work with someone who uses a theme that is elegant, customizable, and easy for you to make changes in. My designer loves Genesis and Beaver Builder and very much dislikes Headway and Avada for several reasons. (Want to see Genesis in action? You’re looking at it – that’s what my website is built on!)
If all that makes you hyperventilate, hire someone! Focus on creating and delivering in your zone of genius, and pay someone to do what frustrates you and takes you forever to do. (And again, I’ll tell you how in my next blog post, and point you towards a bunch of resources.)
If you’re on Squarespace, then Squarespace is also your host.
But for WordPress websites, you’ve got to pick a host. Not all hosts are created equal! So many people choose their hosts based on price. But you need to consider more.
- What are the host’s uptime guarantees? (In other words, can they guarantee your customers can visit your website 24/7?)
- Can you backup your website with your host?
- Does the host have support? How do you get help?
For example, I had a student who was using host x. Host x got hacked, and her website was down for 2 WEEKS. That’s 2 weeks of running her biz she lost, and it looks terrible to prospective customers!
I was recently talking to an industry expert who taught an SEO class I attended. He loves and recommends Flywheel. Their website is directed at agencies, but many of my small biz students use them, and they’ll also migrate your site from another host to them for free! You can get Flywheel for as little as $12/mo.
I use and love WP Engine. It’s considered an industry standard but is also more expensive – $29 per month. (I got a few free months when I signed up as well.) My online coaching business relies on reliable hosting, and I’m really happy with them overall. Before I make any changes to my website, I back it up in WP Engine, then make my changes. If for any reason I’ve messed up my website, I just go back to WP Engine and have it reinstate my pre-changes website. Easy peasy. And their support is fantastic!
The plugins you choose are very much related to your business needs. There are a bajillion WordPress plugins, but some standards are Backup Buddy (to protect your website and Yoast (for SEO). I also use PopUp Ally for my website pop ups – the little thing that pops us to recommend a useful, free guide to visitors (and captures their email address.)
Coming soon: check out my next post so you know what ask a web designer to get recommendations.
Your email marketing service
For the majority of my students, I recommend Mailchimp. Mailchimp is free for up to 2,000 records and is extremely easy to use.
Businesses who are at a more advanced stage will often use Infusionsoft or Ontraport. Both do way more than Mailchimp, have a steeper learning curve, and are more expensive. But some businesses need that added functionality.
Take mine, for example. Mailchimp is a great one-trick pony. (Monkey?) But I have an online classroom, so I use Ontraport for my email marketing, but also to support my classroom ecosystem that is based on WordPress and a plugin called Pilot Press. These three work together seamlessly and give me all the control I need to restrict and allow access to my online training, communicate with my students, and get powerful analytics for my email marketing.
Having said that, it’s also the biggest monthly expense for my business, at $149/month.
There are other options, for sure, like Drip, but since we’re talking the basics, I’d say Mailchimp is perfect, my friend.
Some of my students say, “But Wendy, I my email through Go Daddy! Isn’t that fine?”
Nope! Because that Go Daddy email is NOT an email marketing system. It’s an email address. You need that tool that lets you grow and manage your list.
Whew! So there you have it! You now know:
- The importance of knowing who your customer is and what they needs
- Your website ecosystem
- How to choose your website ecosystem tools
Stay tuned for my next blog post: how to choose the perfect web designer for your business!
All the best,