It is not always clear whether it is worth having your own website, especially if your business has been running smoothly without it for some time. But it’s always worth thinking about new things, after all, if we didn’t we would all still be living in the stone-age.
A website not only provides an online presence for you to set out your stall of what you do and how well you do it, but it’s also something that you control, rather than some third party. If you are an established business your details will almost certainly already be online, the question is whether you want someone else to be pulling the strings.
With your own site, you can make sure that contact details are always up to date, you can provide testimonials from customers and pictures of you and your team. When someone searches specifically for you they should find your site, and see your details, without all of your competitors being listed alongside.
Websites vary hugely in size and cost and many trades businesses can still benefit even from having a one or two page site.
The cost versus benefit of a website
The best way to think about having a website is to weigh the hassle and cost versus the benefit.
The cost side consists of enlisting professionals to build the site, the time it takes to gather the text and pictures, as well as the work to keep it up to date after that.
In contrast, the benefits include:
- Some control over what is said about your business. When people search for your business, they should find your site first. If you don’t have a site, when they search for you they will probably find you listed on some other site, and you never know what it’s going to say. You may not wish your company to be mentioned on the web, but the majority of companies get listed in online directories whether they like it or not, and frequently feedback from customers is posted. You have no right to answer or control things if this doesn’t happen on your own site.
- Your own website provides you with a place to provide prospects with basic information about your company, what you do and how to get in touch. Customers can be put off if they are not certain where you operate and precisely what services you can provide.
- You ought to get some leads for new jobs. As Matthew Stevenson, who runs a fast growing landscaping service, Liverpool Landscapes, says “We get a lot of our business through our web site but we have had to work hard at promoting it”. So to make the most of your website you must promote it, which we will cover in depth in a future article.
Some example sites of trades companies
The following are some sites of real trade companies. These may provide some food for thought:
Sole Trader - http://guyhodgson.co.uk
Ten person gas company - http://www.aphheating.com
Liverpool Landscapes - http://www.liverpool-landscapes.co.uk
Big boys - http://www.pimlicoplumbers.com We regard Charlie Mullins who founded this company as a genius at self promotion.
What should go on a Website?
The first thing to think about is the questions that potential customers are likely to be asking, as this is what you need to bear in mind first and foremost:
- Can you provide the service I am looking for? For instance, if you are an electrician, do you do solar panels? Do you do emergency out-of-hours call outs?
- Can you provide the service where I live?
- Can I trust you to do a great job at a reasonable price?
The first two call for facts, but the last will be decided mostly by the emotions that your website creates. That’s where pictures and testimonials come in.
So most web sites will:
- Try to establish the feel of your business on your home page. For instance, are you small and friendly or big and ultra-professional (and maybe ultra-expensive)
- Say what services you provide in what areas
- Provide clear contact details
- Have customer testimonials
- Show pictures of your work illustrating how tidy and professional it is
Putting your website together
The best result for your website is likely to come from a recommended local web designer. After all every tradesman fully understands the difference between an amateur and a professional.
There will be a cost, and you will still need to gather pictures of you and your team, previous jobs and so on to use on the site.
It’s also possible to do-it-yourself using services like Wix.com, Wordpress.com, or Moonfruit.com. These are remarkably powerful but you will have to learn how to use them and you will only get the best results if you have a good eye for design.
An alternative to a website is to create a free business page on Facebook. This provides some control and you can still provide details of your company. Customers or competitors may post disparaging comments so you have to stay on your toes to delete them.
A Government site that has some information on creating a website is at http://www.greatbusiness.gov.uk/building-your-website/.
Also, there are now many other ways that technology can help your business. One example is lead generators like CheckaTrade.com and RatedPeople.com. A number of other companies, including my own Powered Now, provide apps to help tradesmen and small businesses simplify their quoting, workflow, invoicing and payments. We will be looking at some of these in more depth in the future.
Please make a decision
The internet has radically changed our world and the rapid fall from grace of Yellow Pages provides one good example. It’s vital not to let these changes just pass by. It may be right to decide not to have your own website or experiment with these other possibilities, but please make this is as a definite decision rather than let it happen by default.