The web offers infinite possibilities for expanding and marketing your business, yet a business website is often viewed as having two possibilities, e-commerce and as a brochure, probably because these are the most common, but they are not even scratching the surface of what is possible.
Let’s face it, there are probably millions of sites out there offering the same or similar services as your business, how will you stand out from the crowd? The successful web site need not be extravagant, you just need to spend some time thinking about what your clients needs are, and how you can meet those needs online. Often the failure to provide useful web services is caused by a poor understanding of the potential of the web and what others are doing with it.
To help you in planning your website, and the services it can provide, we offer the following 10 ideas for a smarter website.
- Maps to your locations: A very simple yet useful feature sometimes forgotten. The visitor to your website often doesn’t know where you’re located and may need to call for directions before coming by, head off that question by providing a map, because you and your employees have better things to do than answer the phone. For multiple locations you may want to provide a different map for each, or have a dynamic map that pinpoints that location when the location is selected from a list.
- Online order tracking: This is a common feature of e-commerce websites but even if you don’t sell products online your customers will appreciate this type of feature. Whether the product is ordered over the phone, through email or even by coming to your location, if there is any shipping, processing or manufacturing involved it is convenient to your customers to be able to look up their order status on your website.
- Email newsletter: A powerful marketing and networking tool for you to keep in touch with your existing customers and make new ones. To mail out a traditional newsletter can cost quite a bit in printing, postage and handling, on the other hand an email newsletter’s cost is virtually nothing once the website is developed. Advise about upcoming sales, remind about services offered, provide tips and suggestions on how your products or services can be used, your email newsletter will be the cheapest, most cost-effective advertisement you can have.
- Customer poll: Put your finger on the pulse of your customers by adding an online poll to your website. It’s easy and inexpensive to implement and provides direct feedback from people interested in your services, what’s more it comes with a simple administrative page where you can see the results tabulated and change the question.
- Employee contact directory: If you have a number of employees or departments that clients may want to contact, you can help direct those calls to the right place by implementing an employee contact directory. This can result in more satisfied clients when they are able to call or email the appropriate department instead of having to go through a receptionist or phone menu.
- Online catalog: You may not want to deal with the complexities of an e-commerce application or spend the money required to set one up, but, an online catalog could be the next best thing. With your products displayed online and a phone number to order by, you could be selling to people all over the country or even the world. This can be a good way to see if e-commerce would work for you since a catalog is much less expensive to implement.
- Live news feed: There are millions of RSS news feeds available online for inclusion in your website, from the news websites to feeds about specific interests and industries. By including a news feed on your site you encourage visitors to check in often to read the news and give your website an aura of authority.
- Your company news: New and interesting things happen at your business all the time, new products developed, new services offered or maybe a large project completed, brag about it to your customers by adding a company news feed. This could be a simple a list of blurbs and respective dates about goings on or they can be linked to more detailed news articles or press releases.
- Online community: One of the most effective ways of getting repeat visitors to your site, depending on your business, may be to build an online community by including a message board or forum on your website.
- Business blog: A blog is most commonly personal in nature, but many businesses are finding great success in blogging. A blog can bring new visitors to your site, give visitors a reason to return to your site, establish you as an authority in your field and improve your page rank in Google.
You need an edge to stand out from the crowd online and this doesn’t necessarily mean throwing more money at your website, it means working smarter, not harder, anticipating your client’s needs. If you spend some time planning your website and thinking about the above suggestions you should have no problem making a web site that customers return to again and again.