Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Business Website Design Strategies - The Starting Gate

by Adam Skiba

Twenty years ago most successful business owners would have agreed that "location, location, location" played a major role in their ability to generate profits. This still holds true today, except that it's not the best corner on Main Street anymore - it's the internet. Yet if you're like the thousands of attorneys, wholesalers, small town retailers, physicians, local health food stores, architects, piano teachers, landscapers, auto repair mechanics and other small business owners who have convinced themselves that their business is "different" and is therefore excluded from this directive, think again. No amount of newspaper ads, direct mail campaigns, business cards, radio spots or trade shows can substitute for a website, and more importantly, a high ranking search engine optimized website.

Having a website is not enough. The internet, and more specifically, your website, is merely a tool - and a very powerful one. Aside from the obvious technology components, it's not all that different from other types of marketing communications like brochures, sales letters and fliers. Your ultimate goal is to use your website to generate income - whether it's all online, all offline or a combination of both. The internet is the most powerful, effective and affordable marketing tool available out there, but it can also be the most baffling, and when you consider that the internet is still in its infancy, it's even more mind-boggling.

Site Design Strategies

There are many different ways to create a web presence. The type you choose for your business will depend upon a variety of factors such as the types of products you offer, your target audience's age range, personality types, preferences, budget or time constraints, your skills and much more. Although websites can be used solely to entertain or inform, sharp business owners use them to generate income directly or indirectly. Decide how you'll use your website to generate income so you can build the right structure to accomplish that goal. Begin by asking yourself these nine important questions:

1. What are my short and long term business goals?
2. How will I use my website to achieve these goals (what do I want it to do)?
3. How will I measure my website's performance?
4. What do I want to emphasize?
5. Who are my targeted visitors?
6. How will I measure success?
7. Who is accountable for my website's success?
8. What resources do I have available for building my website?
9. What are my limitations?

Once you answer these questions and consider the other factors that will affect your website's development, you should be ready to narrow down your website's income-generating methods using one of the following four basic approaches.

Immediate Online Sales

You'll sell packaged goods, services and/or digital products which will be delivered immediately or sometime in the future. Although you may accept offline payments, like checks, you'll need a method for accepting online payments via a shopping cart.

Lead Generation For Future Online Sales

This is the quickest and most economical way to build rapport and credibility with your targeted prospects. Although this model varies widely, the website owner asks their visitors to "opt-in", provide their name and email addresses, in exchange for free information, samples, advice, service and the like. This also serves another very important purpose in that it provides web owners with permission to market to these prospects and builds your all-important email list.

Lead Generation For Future Offline Sales

These websites are used to encourage offline sales and are most appropriate for service professionals, brick-and-mortar retailers and wholesalers, or any other business requiring face-to-face sales processes. For example, a men's clothing retailer might include pictures of their best-selling pieces, provide directions to their store location, highlight clearance items and offer advice on fabric choices in an effort to get their prospects to visit their location.

Hybrid

This type of website gathers leads of interested prospects for multiple products and services that can be purchased online, offline or both.

About the Author

Founder of SkyMax, LLC, Adam shows a true passion for delivering cutting-edge SEO Web Design for sustainable, long-term business growth.