Today’s marketplace has undergone so many changes in the last ten years that the pace of that change can at times seem breathtaking. Strategies for marketing your company and its products and services, while having similarities to the past, require a different approach, an online approach. You still must identify and quantify your target market. You still need to build trust. And the concept of a Unique Selling Proposition (or USP) still applies as it is imperative that you are able to convince people of the “why you.”
What has changed is the how.
Websites have been around for a long time. I remember talking with business owners who said the only reason they built a website was because everyone was doing it and you just had to have one to be legit.
While having to have a website is still the case, its function as a key weapon in your marketing arsenal has grown dramatically, so much so that it is the most important marketing investment that you can make.
Almost every purchase decision, whether an individual consumer, or the purchasing manager of a major corporation, begins with a search online. Whether that search is using the name of a business that you learned of through a referral, or whether you are simply trying to find companies that provide what you’re looking for, it begins by doing a search. Google, having become one of the largest U.S. companies in capitalization, dominates this area of marketing, and it is estimated that there are as many as 4 million searches per second around the globe!
So, when you’re building a website, to forget to take into account its ability to be found by people searching online, is basically throwing your money away.
You have two choices when building a website, you can rent your website or you can own it. Just as any other business asset you invest in, it is important to determine which is best for the future of your company.
Examples of website platforms that you rent are SquareSpace, WIX, Weebly, GoDaddy and others. These offer you the ability to create your own website and have the following features: (this is based on conversations with many entrepreneurs who went this route)
- Up-front investment is little or nothing
- There are many templates to choose from
- Can customize within the template’s framework
- Monthly hosting fees are generally much higher
- Must continue to host with them or the site is taken down
- Shopping cart and e-commerce is available
- Can make changes, add pages and upload images yourself, through the dashboard
- The focus is on making it fast and easy to build a website, not on whether the website can be found in an online search
- Lead generation is also not the most important aspect of these alternatives
Examples of website platforms that you own are WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento and others. These typically require the expertise of a professional developer as there are many options, and hence flexibility, in the design and functionality of the website. The following are the features of these options:
- The up-front investment can be sizeable
- Just about anything can be done with respect to design
- There are hundreds of applications that have been developed to work with these platforms, making website customization easier and with a higher level of functionality
- Monthly hosting fees are much lower
- You have the option to host your website wherever you wish because you own your site
- You can make changes, add pages and upload images yourself without being a programmer. This is done through the dashboard
- If the template is built correctly, the website should be able to be found in online searches
- The website should be able to pay for itself through the leads that are generated from it
- You can actually build “equity” in your website, by adding original and valuable content, and since you own the website, that content remains yours, not your hosting company’s.
- Social media can be seamlessly integrated into the site
- You are in charge of your own destiny
The bottom line is, what do you want your website to do? If it is just to be an online brochure, then certainly renting a website can work. If however, you want it to be an asset that provides a return on the investment, to be a key component in your overall marketing, then owning your website is really the only way to go.
Remember this: You can build a beautiful website, but if no one can find it, it’s like having the most impressive billboard in the middle of a desert, it sure looks nice but nobody sees it.