Building a website is pretty easy once you know what your brand, know how you want it to flow and the content you want to include. However, simply building a website and leaving it to petrify isn’t good for your business. It also means your website will never fulfill its true potential.
Your website does a lot more than you may think because it…
Lets potential customers know who you are
Your colours and branding should represent your business accurately. This may change over time, so it’s important to update your site to reflect those changes.
Gives you a space to connect with customers
You may have a presence on social media for more instantaneous contact with your customers, but you don’t own those sites. You do, however, own your website. Posting blog articles that show your specialty and expertise are a great way of making sure that people revisit your site for inspiration and advice. That’s where they will then see new offers and decide to work with you. Check out this great article on HuffPost on why you should start your own blog if you don’t already have one on your website.
Screens and filters potential customers
It’s just as important to know who you DON’T want to work with as who you DO want to work with. A well-designed website that truly reflects your values and brand will actually filter out customers who don’t fit with what you do. Saying your target audience is ‘everyone’ is simply not good practice. Focusing in on who you want to work with will give you an edge.
So is your website fulfilling its potential?
The simplest way of checking this is to get a colleague or friend to visit your website and ask them to answer four questions about it:
- What does this website sell?
- Who is the target market for this website?
- What does the brand of this website say to you?
- Was it easy to find what you were looking for?
If their answers don’t match what you are trying to convey then it’s time to have a rethink and spend some time modifying your content and branding. Just like I’ve done this month!
Oh, and if you need any help creating a new website that is easy for you to manage yourself then you know where I am…
P.S. Since I launched my rebranded site I have asked my own ‘tribe’ to let me know what they think. Their comments and suggestions have been really useful in helping me to fix a few errors that I thought only I may have spotted!
Font and typography have always been an important part of design and document production – from leaflets to magazines, from websites to posters. In fact, many of the typefaces we are familiar with can be traced back centuries such as Garamond (1490), Baskerville (1757) and Bodoni (1780). The typeface you use gives your written words their character and sets the tone of your message.
I am a huge fan of using different typefaces. You can frequently find me browsing the latest gorgeous additions from websites such as Font Bundles and 1001 Fonts. We are so fortunate to have access to such a massive collection that there is honestly no reason at all to use Times New Roman for every single thing you create. Unless you REALLY love it.
However, just because there are thousands of fonts available to you doesn’t mean you should use them all – well not all at once anyway!
Here are my two simple steps to using fonts on your website and within your brand in general:
Set the Tone
Decide what tone you are trying to set and choose a font category to match. The four categories are:
- Serif (such as Times New Roman and Baskerville Old Face) is the traditional font dating back to Mr. Garamond’s day. These fonts convey a conservative and safe feel.
- Sans Serif (such as Arial and Helvetica) is more modern and convey a minimalistic and clean feel.
- Script (such as French Script and Edwardian Script) are elegant with a handwritten feel and lots of loops. They convey sophistication but can be difficult to read.
- Display (such as Comic Sans and Papyrus) are big and bold and convey fun. They are great for headings and posters but not so much if you want to be taken seriously.
Think about the type of business you run and the type of customers you have. These will help you decide which font categories would work well for your brand. Your fonts should be fit for purpose and match the look and feel your business has, just as much as the colours and design do.
You can mix and match these categories to great effect, but choosing too many fonts can be a huge mistake – which leads me to my second point:
Simplicity is Key
“I strive for two things in design: simplicity and clarity. Great design is born of those two things.” ~ Lindon Leader
Most designers will agree that sticking to a maximum of just three fonts is a good guide for not just websites but in all design. Each font has italic, bold and italic bold options making a total of 12 variants for you to choose from. Then you can change the size and colour too. Pick a fancier font for your headings and display pieces and then stick to Serif or Sans Serif the rest of the text.
Whatever fonts you choose STICK TO THEM throughout your brand. The confusion comes when businesses use one font on their website and another in their literature and emails. Find a font that works for you and use it for everything to build consistency and trust in your brand.
And finally, take a look at some of your own favourite brands for inspiration. It’s important to create your own look, but there is no harm in seeing how the companies you admire already do it. Getting clear on your own tastes helps you create a brand that reflects who you are!
For anyone with a product-based business, selling online is relatively straightforward. In fact it should easily cover the cost of maintaining a website in the first place. But for those running serviced-based businesses, recouping the cost of your website may seem impossible.
However, here are three easy and proven ways to ensure that not only does your website bring in more physical business, but that it pays for itself every single day…
If you run workshops, speaking events or courses, consider setting up an online booking system for these. People who would not otherwise email or call will often book online through your website. This is one of my favourite ways to book because it is instant and can be done at any time of day. Integrate your own calendar of events or use services such as Eventbrite or TicketSource to manage your bookings. For smaller events, you can simply add tickets to a shop on your website (such as on the Create platform). Sharing these through your social media channels will spread your message further still. For my own Digital Training I use a WordPress plugin called Events Manager Pro. It links directly with my Paypal account and allows me to track bookings straight through the site for both online and offline payments.
Become an Affiliate
Affiliate marketing is BIG BUSINESS! If you use a product or service and you love it, then why not consider becoming an affiliate for them. Every time someone clicks through your website to theirs and makes a purchase you get a small percentage of that sale. Each affiliate program is completely different and I would only ever recommend signing up for programs that you honestly believe. It’s your reputation on the line as much as theirs! I’m an affiliate for Create because I love their website builder and use it for lots of my clients and also for Danielle LaPorte as I LOVE her products. You can also find affiliate programs for many of the larger online retailers such as Amazon or you could think of setting up your own program for others to recommend your products and services!
Sell Digital Products
If you have a program or book that you can sell online as a digital product then this can also bring in a great residual income. It often requires very little effort (after you’ve created it of course!). Just be aware that if you are located in the UK and sell to a consumer in any other EU country, you will fall into the messy business of VAT-MOSS. Now I’m no expert on this at all so it’s worth checking out the HMRC Website and speaking to your accountant. It applies to supplying things like ebooks, templates, apps and purely online courses. You can get around this by selling through a third party that is already set up for VAT-MOSS such as Etsy. They collect the VAT and pay it for you. I actually run a hobby business completely set up with digital products and it’s definitely worth it.
Implementing just one of these ideas on your website can cover the annual cost of your site without costing you too much time or effort. And of course there are many, many more ways to leverage your website such as membership sites, creating a YouTube channel, creating apps and licensing your own programs – this list is just the tip of the online iceberg!
Christmas is a great time to connect with your customers and clients and is also an excuse to have a bit of fun!
So why not try one of these festive marketing tips:
#1 Surprise your VIPs
Give your top customers or clients a special Christmas surprise – whether that’s a free product or gift or simply a handwritten note to thank them for their custom over the year, your thoughtfulness and recognition of their loyalty will make them feel like they are important to your business and will keep them coming back. If you’re new in business then this list can simply be your most frequent interactors on social media or via email. Whoever they are, make sure they know you think they’re great.
#2 Run a Competition
We all love to win prizes – especially when there may be a festive treat involved! It doesn’t have to be big to spark people’s interest, but offering an entry into your Christmas prize draw if they sign up to your email newsletter or comment on a Facebook post can be a great way to get your customers interacting with you.
#3 Create an Online Prize Hunt
Another simple competition idea is to run an online treasure hunt to get people to interact with your website. You could ask people to find the plum pudding or the treats you have around the site and then email in with their answers. As long as people know what they are looking for then it can be great fun!
#4 Hold a Party
If you have a physical location then putting on a party for your clients or customers can be a great way to keep your business in their minds. This could be limited to your VIPs as another way of surprising them or you could invite everyone who signs up to your newsletter list or who has been a customer in the past year to come along. This very much depends on how many people you think will show up!
#5 Create a Survey
Surveys can be a great way to find out what you clients and customers really think of your business and if you team it up with the chance to win something then you are bound to get people to share their views with you. Think about what it is you want to know and use a free online survey creator such as Survey Monkey to collect the responses.
#6 Sing Silly Songs
One of the funniest things I’ve ever done is create a Halloween video with some colleagues over on JibJab. You simply upload your faces and paste them on the characters and you are all turned into characters on an e-card that often includes hilarious dancing. They also have Christmas ones as well so you and your colleagues can become elves, at least for a short while!
#7 Offer an Early Bird Discount
If you know that Christmas is going to be super busy for you, give an early-bird discount for sales or services in November and let your customers reap the rewards of getting their Christmas shopping done early. Not only do they grab a bargain, but you get more business and hopefully avoid at least some of the last minute shopping that happens. On that note, I actually received an email order at 9pm on Christmas Eve one year so you are not ever going to help everyone be more organised!!
#8 Sell Gift Vouchers
You may already be thinking of this for your VIPs but offering all of your clients gift vouchers is a really great way to say thank you for their loyalty over Christmas. Keep the validity short to ensure they use the voucher early in the new year and this can really be a great way to pump up your clientele in January and February. Customers tend to spend more than the value of the voucher and if they don’t use it at all it hasn’t cost you anything either so these really are a great way to celebrate at this time of year.
#9 Write a Christmas Email Series
Send out an email a day for the 12 Days of Christmas. This could each include a special offer valid for 24 hours only or offering special tips and advice over the festive season. Choose something that fits with your industry and have some fun with it.
#10 Send Custom Candy
Sweets and candy are always winners in my book, so why not create some custom candy with your business details on it, or simply a Christmas message. There are plenty of companies out there doing customised food including putting your logo onto m&ms!! Give these to customers in Christmas baubles or create your own crackers for a simple but memorable gift.
There are so many different ways to surprise your clients this Christmas so I urge you to make the effort and spread some festive cheer.
How often do you update your website?? Once a week, once a month, once a year – even less?!
Remember that your website is open to the public 24/7 and so many people now make up their minds about your business, product or service based on your website and without even speaking to you! So, if you’re not updating your site regularly and it doesn’t reflect who you really are, then you are losing business. Simple.
Here’s my checklist for keeping your website looking fantastic & bringing in business:
- Write, publish and share a blog post (weekly or fortnightly)
- Ensure that any contact forms on your website work correctly
- Check prices and stock levels if you have a shop
- Update your calendar (if you have one) to ensure that only upcoming events show
- Review website statistics – what are your most popular search terms and keywords?
- Visit your site from different devices (such as a PC, mobile and tablet) to check that content loads consistently and easily on each
- Send a marketing/update email to your client list
- Check your site for broken links
- Look at your design/images/colours/logos and change if necessary
- Create a strategy and plan for the coming 12 months
- Get a colleague to read through the entire website to check for errors and flow
- Improve automation (forms, links, email capture)
There are many more checks that you can add to these lists and you could even have a quarterly list as well, but the idea is not to set yourself so many tasks that you do none at all…
So, have a go at these and see what difference spending a few minutes every week or every month on your website makes to your business.
We’ve all seen them – website after website sharing the same stock images over and over again.
Why do they do it? Because it’s easy. Because they don’t care. Because they don’t think it matters. Because someone built the site for them and that’s what they use… There are tonnes of different reasons.
But, here’s the thing – it doesn’t tell your clients who YOU are. It just sells them the same clichéd image of your business that they see everywhere else. If I mention an IT company or a complementary therapist I bet you can already picture the types of stock images that might appear for these?! It’s not that I’m asking you to use images that don’t fit with your profession, but simply to use images that show how YOU work in your profession.
In my opinion, all great website design uses original images and design – from using your own photos and having a professional logo, to having your own colour scheme and fonts. It’s called branding and it’s an important part of running a business. You can employ people to do this for you and I would really recommend it, but when you are starting out it can feel like just another cost you can’t justify.
So, what’s the alternative? Do it yourself… I know, I know. I can hear graphic designers yelling at me from here – please read the previous paragraph where I recommend people using designers – I love you guys!
But here’s the thing. There are some pretty cool things you can do with your own photos and your own graphics FOR FREE. If you are in any way creative then you can save yourself a load of moolah by doing it yourself – at least to begin with.
So, here are three simple-but-amazing free online tools that you can use to optimize, modify and create graphics for your website…
#1. Image Optimizer
The clue is in the name… what else can I say. It’s the simplest of tools to use and allows you to reduce the size, and therefore the file size, of any image you have before you upload it to your website. You can find it here: www.imageoptimizer.net and follow the instructions online or download a copy to your PC to use whenever you want.
I love this website. You can sign up if you want to use all of the features, but for simply cropping and resizing images it’s free to use. Simply click the ‘Edit’ link at the top of the screen when you go to www.picmonkey.com and you’re away. You can also add some text and effects to your image using the free version and I use it to crop parts of larger images or to save images for social media.
This is my favourite free tool and I must admit that I am ever so slightly obsessed with it. It’s not an optimizer so you’ll need to have your photos ready first, but you can create all sorts of graphics for websites and social media here – including website headers (like this one I made for a client). You just select one of the pre-made sizes or enter your own dimensions and you’re away. It’s so simple to create graphics using your own photos (you can upload these for free), text and icons – most of which are free. You get your own account and can save all of your designs there as well as sharing them with the Canva community if you wish. Just head over to www.canva.com to check it out.
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So, there you have it. Three free tools to help you make the most of your own photos and really make your website your own. Oh, and if you need some help, you know where I am – and I know some pretty cool graphic designers and photographers who can help you take the next step if you’re ready for that too.