The last week has been filled with a lot of website design work and it got us thinking on the best platforms and structures for different types of small businesses and thought we would share some of our research with you.
First up, which platform do you choose?
This is such a tough choice with so many website platforms out there, as a small business the choice can be a bit overwhelming, having done a lot of research into this for different requirements the top choices in our opinion are:
This is a big daddy ecommerce site, much more expensive than its competitors but offers the longevity and size to cope with a growing business, if you are serious about your online store and possibly have played around with Shopify/Wordpress before and are now ready to increase your product range this is the one for you.
100s of creatively aesthetic off-the-shelf templates to choose from to make your store look great, although beware you may end up looking like everybody else so it is good to get a designer to create a customised bespoke template just for you. Simple to use and offers plug in solutions to cope with a lot of extras you might need, this is good to set up a small shop with, the blog is a bit basic though and Shopify need to get this up to par. Shopify also has everything included in one price so you are ready to go.
If you already have a Wordpress site and are making the jump to a store this could be a good option for you, as it takes the design theme of your existing Wordpress site. Great SEO options and a really simple platform to use, particularly if you have already used Wordpress. The pricing of WooCommerce is not as straight-forward as Shopify, in that you have to purchase the setting up separately (hosting, domain etc.)
For a comparison of all the features that come with Woocommerce compared to Shopify this is a great article to read - http://ecommerce-platforms.com/compare/shopify-vs-woocommerce-comparison
If you are just wanting a ‘portfolio’ website, i.e. you are not selling any products, there are a couple of other choices. The most obvious is;
Wordpress. This is the most widely used as the themes are open source – which means that lots of people can edit and customise to create a unique style for your website. However, its is not a ‘drag-and-drop’ website, which means if you want to add a video and your template isn’t set out to have a video you will need to edit the code to do this – so you will have to go back to your developer to request this. There are loads of plug-ins and resources available to help you customise to what you need, but if there are upgrades to the platform bear in mind this will affect your plug-ins and some may not update in line, this could lead to added expense later to revise your website. The cost of building a Wordpress site is relatively low, but remember all the add-ons – hosting, custom templates and additional plug-ins, this means it can work out more expensive than the standard Weebly plan.
www.weebly.comThis platform uses the drag-and-drop functionality which makes it the most easy to use website builder on the market right now. It is our preferred choice for simple websites for small businesses as it means you can hold the reins after its gone live and upload video, edit text, change images quite easily yourself. It has hundreds of templates to choose from but is a little less flexible than Wordpress regarding editing the style, and its very much more of a ‘closed network’ what you see is what you get. The pricing is based on different tiers, and the plan you choose will include certain functionality indicative of the monthly fee.
The Wix platform is also drag-and-drop but has around 500 templates to choose from, and some really nice designs set up for certain businesses. Their templates are pre-populated so you just switch out their content for yours, although bear in mind if you change your mind and wish to change the template you will lose your content and will have to start over!
You can drag and drop literally anywhere on the site, unlike Weebly which forces you to drag and drop in certain areas. If you choose the lowest fee plan with Wix you will see their ad in a visible place at the top of your website, to avoid this you have to upgrade the plan so it can work out a bit more expensive than Weebly.
Next consider your brand plan.
Whenever we get a potential client approach us asking for a new website, we always say, we won’t be the cheapest but you will have better results for longer if you go with us, as we always do the hard work first.
You need to put together a marketing strategy before you do your website, not after. The strategy will tell you important stuff like, what your objectives are, what your values are, who your target audience is, what your competition looks like and how you are going to meet those objectives. Having this knowledge will assist you to put a website together that delivers – making it clear who you are, what you are offering your potential customer and why that is so much better than your competition.
Then think about your brand identity, if you don’t have a logo this should be designed along with some brand guidance such as colours, fonts, image style. Again, do that before you design the website.
Then get your images together. A website is only as good as the images you put in it so consider spending some budget on professional photography to start you off. But then you can probably start to do some yourself. We interviewed, Jon Holloway at Dyslexic Photographer who runs private, tailored photography tuition for start-ups and small businesses, to get his top tips on doing your own photography in-house
4. Framing - do you need to get closer or further away? Up or down? Around to the side a bit? Your feet are an incredibly effective zoom, use them.
5. Accessories - A large bit of white card can work wonders for reflecting light.
6. Think of a photo like the copy on your website. You wouldn't write a sentence once and think that’s the final thing. You need to keep working at it until it is right. Only then will it get better.
Once you have your images, you will start to see your brand really coming together and you are now ready to start designing your website. Start with thinking about your consumer journey and how your site should be structured, it needs to be simple and easy to navigate with a few key features. Avoid too much clutter, people need to get to what they want quickly and easily.
If you have an ecommerce store, get them to feel part of your brand lifestyle through the images and language you use. Video can really help engagement, with over 80% of customers more likely to convert after they watch a video on a landing page. You want them to spend time on your site looking at your products and offer them options they may not have considered to up-sell or cross-sell products, and then the important part is that they can navigate effortlessly to basket and through the checkout process in a few simple steps.
If you have a portfolio site, consider what your target audience mindset is when they land on your site. By that I mean, if you are an electrician they will need the contact number bold and easy to get to and be able to click from their mobile to call you. They may like to see pricing clear and simple before they call too. If you are an interior designer they will want to see a large gallery of images showcasing your work and drawing them in to entice them on what you have to offer and how you can help, you may want to drive them to sign up to your newsletter to capture interested clients and target them through your email marketing.
Key features to consider:
There is lots to consider when creating a website and this is only the very start, designing a website is a very important step for you and your business and must be well-considered, it is your public face to the world and needs to represent you in the best possible way. If you want to get in touch to discuss designing your website we always love to have a chat about a new business, just give us a call.
If you want to know more about Jon’s photography workshops to achieve your goals, from lighting your products to camera and equipment advice. You can get in touch with him at email@example.com or go to dyslexicphotographer.com
Recently we have been doing a LOT of networking, attending events and organising them, to get to know how this benefits a small business and if it truly can help grow your business.
As a small independent local business ourselves we share the same understanding of running a business and what advice and support is needed. We felt that networking could be a really good avenue to become part of the local business community and let people get to know us and what the company offers.
We thought we would share some tried and tested methods to help you boss small business networking like a pro...
1. Get out of your comfort zone
It can be super daunting walking into a room of strangers and talking confidently about your business, however after you do it once you will see that everyone is in the same boat and its always way easier than you think. You leave punching the air (metaphorically speaking hopefully) and feel you are a more than capable and confident.
2. Do some prep
Look at who the networking is aimed at and the potential attendees, prepare an ‘elevator pitch’ about you and your business. Make sure you have lots of business cards and any marketing materials on you. Think about what you hope to achieve from the session and be open about that if given the opportunity.
3. No one likes a hard sell
Yes this is a great opportunity to find new potential clients, however no one wants to feel they are being sold to. When you meet someone, introduce your self and firstly enquire (and actively listen!) about their business. Find something you have in common or something you know about their industry and ask questions. Once you have built a good conversation flow, ask the question ‘is there anything I can do to help you’ or ‘what could you do with my help on?’
4. Evening networking
Drinks help. Just don’t go crazy. Stop at one.
When you meet someone and it becomes clear they don’t need your services, think about other people (or potential clients) you know who they might benefit from knowing them and put in an introduction. Giving away free advice and sharing contacts helps build trust and even if they don’t need you now, they might need you in the future or know someone else who does. If you have helped them in a small way you will be remembered favorably.
6. Moving away
Let’s be honest, you are speaking to someone and its clear the conversation is exhausted and you see a really interesting potential client getting her coat on to leave you need to move away sharpish – how do you do this and not be rude? Just say ‘Do you know xxx, could you introduce me’ or ‘it’s been great talking to you, do you mind if I just catch xxxx before she leaves’. People are not there to make lasting friends and won’t be offended so don’t feel you have to be very ‘British’ about it all!
Good luck, the more you do the better you will be.
If you are interested in attending our local business networking events in East London and West Essex drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaking to a few interior design clients recently there seems to be a recurrent theme which is presented to me – how do I find the time to use social media when I’m too busy running my business? Does that sound familiar to you?
Well this week I’m going to share some tips on how to use social media effectively to generate leads and grow awareness of your interiors business. First up is Pinterest.
Let’s be honest if you are in interior design, you are in THE best place to use Pinterest – it’s practically created for you. 70 million people have a Pinterest account, 68% are female and on average have a combined household income of £100,000 – your ideal target customer right there!
Tip 1 – Pin 10-30 times a day
Unlike other social channels you need to be pinning a lot! Aim to pin at least 10 times per day and up to 30. However, make sure you space them out so that you’re not pinning a whole load all at once. You can do this via a scheduler app like Buffer. If you have created a content plan each week just take the topics from that and create what you need and schedule them in.
Tip 2 – Rich up your pins
Use rich pins so that users can learn more about where the image came from, how to buy the product featured or where to read more about the article. Which makes your pin totally more useful for your audience (and therefore more likely to be shared or clicked). You do this by first installing a plugin for your site (e.g. WordPress plugin Yoast) and adding the Pinterest code to your blog, validate your site at Pinterest and request Rich Pins, then you’ll get an email from them saying it’s all validated.
Tip 3 – Don’t just pin – explain too!
Add some description into your pin, a few sentences will do but try to include some keywords, something with a positive sentiment and for the audience to do, like click a really useful link. Like all social media, act as though you were speaking to a friend about something – make it interesting or funny, useful, or informative and make it relevant to them. You wouldn’t go up to someone in a room and start telling them all about you, so act that way on Pinterest and in social media in general. Too many times I just see brands posting their latest product, which can be incredibly repetitive and a little dull.
Tip 4 – Create your pictures just for Pinterest
A really handy online tool to use for getting the right aspect ratio right for different social channels is Canva – it has all the formats right there and the editing capabilities for you to have your pins ready in minutes, particularly useful if you find Photoshop a little too complex. Your pins should be vertical and multiple mosaic style pins work really well, particularly if you are showing a ‘How to’ so for instance ‘How to do a quick upcycle of a side table’. Canva have this format too.
Tip 5 – Be a Pin Groupie
Find group boards to join, this will help you get more followers and repins. You can use the tool PinGroupie to find the right boards based on a certain category – filter the ones that have the highest re-pins as these will be the ones people are engaging with the most.
Tip 6 – Create boards with keywords and headlines
A good way of organising your pins is to create themed boards around certain styles or topics like ‘Wallpaper Trends’ or ‘Favourite New Luxe Products’, and design a cover with a headline for each of these boards in a consistent branded way. Categorise them and make sure the boards are keyword rich so that you are found in search.
Tip 7 – Use ‘pin it for later’
When you create a new blog post, remember to pin an image from it to a board and then use that same image on Google+ and put the link to the article on there and a ‘pin for later’ link. This is great because it not only links Google+, your blog and Pinterest but it encourages people to save and remember you later.
I know this is a Top 7 list, but I had to squeeze one more in which is don’t forget to promote Pinterest in your other channels – tweet a new board or share some of your pins in your latest newsletter – make what you’re doing work as hard as it can to big up your brand!
If you want some help planning the content marketing for your interiors company give us a shout, we're always keen to talk to new faces.
In the second part of a series of talks to small businesses and start-ups in Chigwell, Essex Stephanie Wright describes how to come up with unique creative ideas for your content plan that will meet your objectives and engage your audience.