For St. Patrick’s Day, 2012 we launched a new Website for the Irish American Unity Conference. In addition, we revised their logo, launched a Facebook presence and coached them to continue their social media marketing initiatives.
The IAUC is a nationwide, nonpartisan, nonsectarian, chapter-based human rights organization working for justice and peace in Ireland. It’s mission is to bring all Irish, Irish Americans and others together on the basis of their common belief in Justice and Peace in a reunited Ireland. We wish them well in their peaceful endeavors to reunite Ireland. Adh mor ort (good luck to you) IAUC!
Over 10 years ago, when I started to really delve into Website design it was nothing for even simple sites to easily cost five figures. Not today.
WordPress is the Best For Us
I’m a huge WordPress fan and it’s hard to argue against its robust open source platform, ease of use and cost (free) for Website design. We “eat our own dog food” at BrandMill (so to speak) as our Website actually is a WordPress site.
I highly recommend WordPress to most all of our clients and for them to use a competent Web designer or firm (like BrandMill – wink) to create a custom-branded template (StudioPress is an excellent turn-key solution) and to train them to update the site themselves.
20 Free (or Inexpensive) Website Services
However, in my travels, conversations and research, I’ve come across a growing list of inexpensive and/or free Web services available these days that may make some sense for start-ups and SMBs such as:
- Big Cartel (eCommerce)
- Big Commerce (eCommerce)
- Drupal Gardens
- Shopify (eCommerce)
- Vendder (eCommerce)
- Vendio (eCommerce)
- Volusion (eCommerce)
- YP Website Solutions
I dig Posterous, Vendio and Shopify and I’m sure sme of the other Shop sites are worth exploring) however our initial research into most of the other vendors still look like vendor sites from 10 years ago.
We consult with a lot of SMBs and nearly all of them need a new web presence if they’ve dabbled with one of the above vendors because of the lack of SEO, customer support and much, much more. You get what you pay for in life and with Websites. And, no Website in the world will achieve its true sales potential without constant care driven by keyword rich content marketing, SEO and more.
For the past few years, we’ve been providing marketing consulting for SMB borrowers of our financial client that manages a redevelopment loan fund. Most of the businesses they lend to are ‘mom and pop’ firms and their marketing funds are tight to non-existent.
Certainly if these brands could not afford a Website, we’d recommend against doing so, however in our opinion they can’t afford not to have one. In the most extreme cases, a social media presence (e.g., Facebook) could be the marketing beginning for them, but we’ve found WordPress to be a perfect solution – it has decent Shop plugins too. Facebook is great, but it is a ‘closed garden’ meaning that you need to participate/join to benefit whereas, with a Website you’re open to the world. Again, you can’t afford NOT to have a Website.
5 SMB Website Building Steps
In short, here are the 5 steps we’ve repeatedly used to help build a cost effective Website presence for our SMBs:
- Start a Facebook page, create a content strategy, contribute, respond, listen and deliver value (apply strategy to Website too)
- Buy your own domain (register.com, godaddy.com, name.com etc. – and, just get a .com extension)
- Host your domain with a reputable, cost-effective hosting firm. We like godaddy.com (search for a coupon code and use it) because it’s inexpensive, can scale with you, plays well with WordPress and has super customer care. You can actually talk to LIVE people. What a concept.
- Hire someone to help you launch a WordPress Website (e.g., a smart college intern could help too). You want to own your site and control your own brand destiny. You’ll want to add themes, analytics (WordPress comes complete with back-end analytics, but add (for free) Google analytics code to your site). Consider Flickr to host photos/albums and back into your site social media plugins.
- Read/study/master/execute content strategy. OK, well you don’t necessarily have to master Web design and code, but you should strive to gain a healthy working knowledge of it. Start with the WordPress for Dummies book. Learning this stuff is no different than learning about any investment you make. You need to have expert help to some degree, but to maximize that help, you need to understand what you’re getting into and what to expect. Keep adding rich valuable content to your site on at least a weekly basis. A Blog will help.
For my money these are the 5 steps to get a great Website up and running for little time and money.
I hope this essay helps you experience much good fortune. Good luck!
Earlier this week on March 23, a devastating tornado swept through Hempfield Township (Greensburg), PA – a community about 40 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Young 15-year-old Tyler Tubbs’ first person account is now sweeping the internet with remixes and parodies. His video of the tornado has nearly 200K YouTube views and has earned national acclaim and coverage via media channels such as CNN. And today, Pittsburgh’s “Tornado Boy” is now being compared to “Double Rainbow Guy” with over 1 million views!
The tornado left in its wake widespread destruction. And, while several families lost their homes, thankfully no one died and injuries were minor.
It’s easy to laugh now at Tyler’s hysterics because no one died or was seriously injured. And, it’s especially funny to me as a Pittsburgher because his “Pittsburghese” comes shining through loud and clear! You got to love it!
OK, since this is a Marketing Blog and not the Weather Channel, what can marketer’s learn from Tyler’s ordeal? Well, here are five marketing lessons you can take away from Tyler’s experience to more effectively tell your brand’s story.
- Communicate with authenticity, transparent honesty and enthusiasm - Tyler was ‘in the moment!’ You feel his amazement, excitement, fear and heartfelt storytelling. His repetitive “tornado” announcements and varying pitch of his voice reinforced his message.
- Always show and tell – Adding video to a story always adds more drama than simply reading a story in print with no visuals and adds to the experience.
- Publish now – Don’t hesitate with new news. Tyler didn’t wait to add music, supers, slick transitions or even edit the film to make it a mini movie of the week. He immediately published and reaped the rewards of viewership. How many of us wait until something is perfect before we launch only to find that others have caught up to us and the parade passed us by?
- Always be prepared - Tyler had his camera with him and immediately acted. I’m sure 95% of all the folks in Hempfield had a cell phone camera of some sort, but they did not act – if they did, they certainly did not move as fast as Tyler.
- Get key influentials/networks to spread your viral effort – This isn’t quite true for Tyler – yet – but when Jimmy Kimmel tweeted Double Rainbow Guy’s video, his views took off!
We can’t expect to have a key influential like Jimmy Kimmel spread our good word, but today – with social media dominating just about everyone’s lives these days and tools such as Facebook and Twitter making it so easy to spread news via our own networks of a few hundred friends and family – nearly everyone is more influential than we were 5-10 years ago making good news travel amazingly fast!
Remember that you are an influential and to publish NOW!
In a Zoomerang survey of more than 750 small to medium sized businesses with marketing budgets less than $1,000, over a third said they use social media as part of their marketing strategy.
Here’s the breakdown of SMB social media channel usage :
Facebook – 80%
LinkedIn – 37%
Twitter – 27%
Sure, it’s smart business to explore social media channels, but neglecting to build a solid Website presence is being penny wise and pound foolish. Only about 50% of SMBs have a Website and those that do only provide a basic overview and contact information. Big mistake.
I’m sure many SMBs are running Facebook Pages for their web presence, but to be found online, you want to spread your good word on as many channels as possible. And, because of some of the search engine limitations of social media, having a Website is a must.
With free WordPress templates and platforms such as Posterous, you can easily customize a Website and Blog so there’s no valid reason not to have one. And, the cool thing is that they easily interconnect with social media channels.
For example, all of my Website blog posts via my WordPress Website/Blog platform are reported in my Twitter feed and LinkedIn profile automatically. And, I can connect Facebook as well.
As important, a Website is far more powerful than a Facebook page because:
- Not everyone is on Facebook – more people are online
- Facebook owns YOU and can change things anytime
- Facebook has SEO limitations within its 4 walls – most activity stays there not all over the Web
SMBs, if you don’t have a Website, get one…soon. You and your customers will be happy to have one.