Is Your Company Website ‘Under Construction?’
The internet has been an integral part of our economy for over three decades. It isn’t going anywhere and if you aren’t taking full advantage of it, you competitor will surpass you. Every company needs an online presence. This is more than a website, but that’s the best place to start. Honestly, in this day and age, I don’t know many companies that aren’t on the internet. According to Statista.com, a website that keeps statistics on e-commerce, 191 million U.S citizens were online shoppers and had browsed products, compared prices or bought merchandize online at least once in the past year. Those figures are projected to surpass 200 million people in 2015.
If you’re not putting yourself or your company ‘out there,’ you’re missing out on a ton of potential business. If you don’t have a website, you need to get one now. But just adding your company’s website to among the other tens of million other web pages won’t do you any good. You need a plan to build a successful website, and you need to target the right kind of customer. Unless your nephew is a professional web designer, you shouldn’t rely on him to do this for you.
As the Director of Technology for Armstrong Steel, I see a lot of construction web sites. It baffles me that some people still don’t understand what a website is for, even though they use them all the time. Your nephew might be a tech wiz, but he doesn’t know your customers like you do. He doesn’t know what they’re looking for when they land on your site. You should – and if you don’t – you need to spend some time thinking about it before you move forward with your site.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. It shouldn’t be hard. You use the internet everyday just like them. You go to your favorite search engine and type in what you’re looking for. When you land on someone’s site and you find what you want, you’re happy, and that leads to positive feelings about the company. If you don’t find what you want, you go somewhere else. Your customers might be looking for something as simple as your phone number, or as complex as details on your past projects. Make sure they can find these things easily.
After your initial plan, it’s time to choose a domain name. The best way to do this isn’t on the internet – it’s in your office with a pen and piece of paper. Sit down and start writing down words that describes your business. There’s a good chance that your company name isn’t going to be available, but if you can pick a domain that represents your business to your customers, they’re more likely to remember it. Do you erect steel buildings? Try to put that in your URL! Choose something professional, don’t use abbreviations or numbers to replace letters.
Next, hire a website designer. You don’t have to hire an expensive Silicon Valley company to make your site. Get online and find a freelancer with past experience that you like. If you hire the right web developer, they should be able to make recommendations to you for much of this process and you actually see a return on your investment. Using your nephew isn’t going to lead to much more than a headache and a site that could actually push customers away instead of encourage them to contact you.
Now you get to plan the design and the layout of your website. Choose your colors and theme carefully, and keep them uniform on your entire website. Don’t spring for flashy pop-ups, or gaudy designs. Keep the website simple, with an unpretentious scheme. Make sure your website displays your business clearly, and details exactly what you do and the services you offer. Make the text concise and straightforward. Let there be no mistake about your abilities, and make it impossible for a customer to leave your site. This is the time to think about your website navigation. You’ll want multiple menus, tabs and sitemaps with plenty of text and helpful information to persuade people to utilize your business. Make your contact information big and visible!
If you want to delve even deeper into the process, you can find out how to optimize your website for search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of making your website easy to find for your target clients. Publish and promote your website through social media and email advertising. Make sure to highlight what sets you apart from other contractors. Add pictures of all the steel buildings you’ve erected in the past in a photo gallery, and include testimonials and reviews. Make it easy for customers to access your information and past projects. It might be the easiest way to gain more business if people can see actual examples of your craftsmanship.
If you’d like, look at how a few successful companies have their websites laid out, and pattern yours after it.
Like any project, you can’t just build something, and then neglect it. Make sure you perform maintenance and continue to test it. Software companies are always improving their browsers, and you need to make sure your website stays ahead of the curve, and compatible with new technology. As you see more or less business, you’ll be able to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Hopefully, you’ll be inundated with visitors, clamoring for you to erect their steel buildings.Photo courtesy: USACE, Foncyt, Peter Craven