For a small business to get up and online it’s not necessary to spend that $3000 that your friends’ friends web developer wants to charge you.
In fact I urge you not to go to the free lance developer. Instead think more holistically and take advantage of the new hosted services that are changing the way the digital operates, particularly for micro and small businesses.
Using a good set of cloud based solutions where you don’t have to worry about hosting, you can build a slick looking website, with a shopping cart, click to chat, forms and email database, graphics, CRM (customer database) and webstats without a web developer.
This also means you can update your content whenever you need or add new pages or features as you need, without it costing you anything. And if you chose carefully , you can get a heap of other features like an inbuilt blog that auto-publishes to your social accounts or list events that you are holding or feature galleries of your products.
If you know which services do what and which ones connect easily with each other, then you can achieve a lot with very little money.
A small business I worked with built their website for less than $120 per annum, as follows:
- Website with shopping cart, forms, blog etc - $96 pa
- Click to chat - $12 pa
- Email - $free
- Graphics - $free
- CRM for client database $free
Total = US$108. Converting to AUS this is still under $120.
By taking this approach and not blowing all your cash on your website, your cash is freed up to invest in the digital activity that brings the customer or audience to you ie. search, social, digital advertising. This is a far better approach as you get a complete digital presence across all the digital channels, and you move straight onto getting people to your site rather than waiting to see what happens next.
Which picks are best?
I’ve put together any number of sites using these game changing hosted solutions out there that willingly integrate and play happily with each other. This is my current list of faves.
TOP WEB BUILDER
Currently the market is being dominated by Squarespace and Wix. But Squarespace is my favourite due to quality and polished look you can achieve so easily with their templates. Their 24/7 support team are also excellent. They are a great example of how to run a business based on service and interactions.
What’s so great about these two services? They have a great range of professional templates and a lot of flexiblity to play with the layout and design to make sure your branding is on point.
They have in-built SEO thinking straight out of the box. Many developers won’t hard bake into your site unless you specify what you need. It's certainly not perfect, but it's a long way ahead of many bespoke built sites or Wordpress sites.
It’s in their interest to stay ahead of the curve - a great example is they are already mobile ready for the latest Google changes that will penalise any site that’s not.
They have forms and shopping cart already hard baked in.
They allow easy integration with services like Mailchimp, click to chat etc and a blogging tool that allows you to publish direct to your social networks.
They do all the hosting, so no need to worry about uploading code, monitoring to make sure your website is up and running. These services have it in their (reputational) interest to back everything up and keep your site up without technical hitches.
They offer 24/7 technical help. Yes, this is where it really is so much better than the Wordpress site or other that you’re developer has put together. You have people to help you and fix things - at no extra cost.
Finally, there's no need for an expensive developer.
CLICK TO CHAT
There are several on the market that are great, but the current fave is Zendesk on the basis of value for money spent.
In this instance, Zendesk offers a great customer service tool to monitor all communication channels (ie. email, social and click to chat) that comes with an app to keep you answering your customers queries when your out and about on your mobile.
At a $1 per month (paid annually) for just one agent, if you’re a new start up, this is the perfect entry point tool to keep you connected and available to your customers as they interact with you.
It also integrates with Sprout and Hootsuite if you’re hectic on your social networking side and is an easy install in Squarespace.
Mailchimp have cornered the market on easy to use and free entry point. If you’ve got less than 2000 subscribers, are emailing less than 12,000 then Mailchip offers great value at $nil per month.
So until your volumes grow, you don’t need to pay anything, except for the auto engagement capabilities, but even this is still reasonable at about US$10 per month.
Some people do find Mailchimp strict, but their focus on spamming laws and keeping you and them on the right side of black lists, is actually a bonus, particularly if you’re not a seasoned email campaigner.
Besides this, they seem to be die-hard sci-fi fans. I can't resist that.
For styling and graphic design, use Canva to whip up your promo tiles and banners for Facebook and Instagram etc. It’s free but some templates and images are charged at $1 a piece.
Now this is really going to depend on what you’re doing for your business but a basic, modifiable Customer Relationship Management tool (or fancy database to track your customers every move) where you can easily pass across customers /potential customers that you have captured either on your website, via email campaign or via your social channels.
Capsule is free with easy easy setup. Not only that, it integrates with Zendesk so that any conversations will be automatically stored in the CRM so that you can track, report and view at a later date and see all interactions with a customer.
The other good thing is that it’s easy to extract the data, so when you need something more its easy to move on.
SECRET NUMBER 6 - WEB STATS
I didn’t include it in the top 5 because everyone is likely to know about Google Analytics, but the capabilities of Google Analytics, including goal tracking make it hard for any of the paid analytic programs to compete on value.
Unless your an extreme "numbers person" wanting to analyse your stats to the nth degree, then go with the free Google Analytics program. If you’re nervous about Google having access to your data and the subsequent consequences, then read up on the Zombie apocalypse. It should prepare you well for any big Brother societal breakdown that Google will lead.
Do you have favourites that should feature in this list?