Story by: Colophon Editor
August 4, 2006

A website is a critical part of a small business marketing strategy. Whether you own a law firm, real estate office, technology consultancy, restaurant, engineering firm or retail store, a website allows you to reach a growing number of people who begin their search for goods and services on the Internet.

Charleston, SC is a traditional southern community infused with a burgeoning population of tech-savvy locals and new-comers from around the US. Some of the people moving to Charleston are starting businesses of their own. All are consumers. Developing a website for your business in order to reach this audience, is essential to a successful sales and customer service strategy. Following these 5 simple guidelines will help ensure your success on the web.

  1. Have a marketing strategy.
    A website on its own will not necessarily improve your company brand or sales. Without specific goals for your website, it is likely to be a disappointment to both you and your audience. Consider the main business objective of having a web site. This may be to provide simple information about your business and how to find it, or you may have a plan to move your company sales effort online with a shopping cart. Defining your online goals will start the project in the right direction.
  2. Have a clear and direct message about what you do.
    It is surprising to find websites that do not immediately communicate what a company does. This can be done with words or images, but it is essential to inform web site visitors as soon as your site loads. There is 10 second threshold (in 2015 it's 1 second!) of attention for web surfers and this time grows shorter each year.
  3. Organize your content.
    Many companies are successful without ever having done much marketing. They may never have created materials that outline their products and services. And they may never have written language for marketing materials such as brochures and catalogs. Creating content for a website requires a complete inventory of all company marketing materials and an organized outline from which your web developer will work.

    This can be a daunting task. However, if you start early and collect all existing materials that the company has on hand the pieces will start to fall into place. To make the process easy for both you and your web developer, keep track of website content using individual Microsoft Word documents. For example, if the website will have a section called "Company", create a Word document called "company.doc" and add the text to it there.

  4. Design for your customers – not the CEO.
    Capturing the look and feel of a company brand is important. However, the number one design goal for a website should be to satisfy the needs of the people visiting the website. Web surfers are task oriented. They want to arrive at a website that loads quickly and allows them to achieve their tasks with no hassles.
  5. Have a Long Term Maintenance Plan
    Once a website is launched on to the web, it will be joining a network of hundreds of millions of websites. The vast majority of business websites are like faded billboards, left to rot in the elements. To ensure that your site stays useful to visitors and up-to-date with rapidly moving technology trends, create a maintenance plan and stick to it.

    Website maintenance includes changing content and updating design on a regular basis. This may be as basic as adding a news article on a monthly basis, or more involved, like developing new customer service features. Recently a Colophon New Media customer had us develop a Customer Area, where their clients could login to retrieve documents that are specific to their needs.

Jacob Nielson, the usability expert from MIT, outlines 4 reasons users return to some websites and not to others. He uses the acronym HOME to demonstrate the points:

High-quality content
Often updated
Minimal download time
Ease of use

If your business has taken the step to build a professional quality website, look for return on the investment by building it right and keeping your online visitors interested. A site focused on your visitors with fresh design and content builds trust and improves your brand.

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