Your small business website need to be customized. Here’s why (spoiler, it’s not as expensive as you think).
About eight years ago, my PC laptop neared death. I needed something faster and lighter. Attempting to save some money, I purchased a Samsung tablet, hoping its basic functions would suffice for my fledgling writer needs. One year later, I found myself buying a new Macbook Pro because the cheaper tablet just wasn’t meeting my needs. In my attempt to save money, I ended up spending more in the long run.
I’m afraid that when it comes to websites, many small businesses use the same logic: I can get by and save money with the cheaper template option. But I’ve lived the years of frustration of trying to market a small business with a template website, and I can tell you that it’s not worth it. And if my experience isn’t enough to encourage you to go custom, I have six really good reasons why you should market your small business with a custom website.
But first, a refresher on the purpose of websites.
Why You Need a (Good) Small Business Website
Your website is not an online brochure for your business. Your website should be the hub of your small business marketing strategy. This is because your website is your primary digital conversion tool. All your social media, email marketing, digital ads etc. should be funneling your audience to your website for conversion.
Website conversions look different depending on your business type, the goal of the overall website, and even a website’s particular page. A conversion could look like purchasing a product, scheduling a free initial consultation, or signing up for the newsletter. Regardless of the type of conversion, your marketing needs to drive your audience to your website which should be designed to drive conversions.
Now, 6 reasons to market your small business with a customized website.
1. Templated websites look cheap
That statement may seem strong, but it’s unfortunately true. You have invested blood, sweat, and tears to start, build, and grow an amazing small business. And templates just don’t reflect how amazing your business is.
Templates from Squarespace, Shopify, Weebly, and Wix, though they may look beautiful in demo, have 3 big drawbacks that make websites that use them easily identifiable: (1) They all generally look the same, (2) they tend to be blocky in style, and (3) have frustratingly limited options for modification.
Your website is often the first presentation of your business to potential customers. It would be jarring if you walked into a 5-star restaurant and found that it used paper and plastic place settings. And that cheapness would make you wonder if the food was really all that great. Don’t cause potential customers to doubt your awesomeness because of a sub-par presentation.
2. Templated websites are not customized for your specific business or your specific audience
If you picked a templated website, I am positive that you spent hours sifting through the various options to try to find the one that best fits your needs. I did too. However, no matter how long you spent choosing it, the developer didn’t design that template for your specific business. Your website is like your digital brick and mortar. It’s an online expression of who you are as a business: your mission and vision. A template won’t express that message authentically.
Additionally, a strategically designed website starts with awesome content – your photos, your messaging, etc. The whole premise of a templated website is that you pick a site that looks good in demo and then retro fit your content to it. This does a disservice to your marketing because quite often a website that looks good in demo becomes awkward once you add your content to it. And the built-in tweaking options often aren’t enough to take the awkward away.
Finally, a developer didn’t investigate your particular target audience before designing the template. No matter how beautiful a template may be, if it isn’t built with your audience in mind, it won’t drive conversions well – the whole point of having a website. And the design tweaks built into a templated website simply aren’t enough to take your website to a customized, conversion-driving, expression-of-you website.
Learn more about template websites and conversion rates here.
3. Template tweaks don’t cut it
Most templates are designed to give you some ability to edit fonts, colors, and images. But eventually, those capabilities run out. And in order to continue customizing your website, you often need to pay for expensive plugins and other tools. In some cases like Shopify template websites, additional customizations require hiring a developer versed in their specific coding.
In our experience, it’s less expensive and much less frustrating to work with a design team to build your custom website from the get-go.
Check out this article to read our top tips for website design, plus a few extra.
4. Templates aren’t designed for your small business’s marketing strategy
We find that small business owners often default to a “if you build it, they will come” strategy with their websites: If I’m a retailer and build a Shopify site, my customers will visit and buy my product. Or set up a consultation, or whatever the website’s conversion goal might be.
But a website needs more than a conversion opportunity to drive conversions. You need to have a strategy around your website to grow your audience and offer various levels of conversion like newsletter sign-ups and free initial consultation offers – in addition to the ultimate product or service sell. You need a strategy for engaging and delighting potential and current customers through helpful blogs, landing pages tied to email platforms, and more.
Unfortunately, templated websites simply don’t offer many of the features needed for synergistic and strategic marketing for your small business. And if they do, you often end up needing to pay for higher service levels, plugins, and more in order to access those features. It’s far less frustrating to build a custom website that can grow with your company and marketing.
5. Templates aren’t growth focused
As a small business owner, you should want to experience growth. You’ve probably heard the cliche: you’re either growing or you’re dying. As extreme as it sounds, there’s a lot of truth there, and its application extends beyond financial growth. Having a growth-focused company culture reaps more rewards than a higher paycheck for you. Growth-focused business culture means you can pay more to retain high caliber employees and your business can partner more in the community around you.
And if you are on a mission to help people better their lives through your company’s product or service, growth means helping more people. Practically, this looks like a physical therapist rehabilitating more cancer patients. It looks like a beauty salon creating a community of confident clients. It looks like a business solutions firm helping more small businesses achieve their goals for growth and increase their ability to further invest in employees and community.
Though your website might seem inconsequential to this big-picture growth mindset, it actually plays a crucial role in your growth because of its crucial role in your marketing strategy. To be frank, a templated website is just not enough for this big-picture growth goal.
Read this article from Forbes for more reasons why you need a growth mindset for your small business.
6. Custom small business websites are realistic
Despite the above good reasons for investing in a custom website for small business marketing, we often hear two common complaints against custom websites: they’re too expensive and they’re unusable. But a custom website is realistic for marketing your small business!
“Custom small business websites are too expensive”
Yes, custom websites are an investment. But the cost varies significantly based on the number of pages developed, types of media content used (photos vs video), and the amount of written content, and additional features needed.
For most start ups, we recommend starting with a 1-5 page website designed to grow with the company. More established small businesses probably don’t need a 20 page site design, but 7-10 pages are a good starting point. While video is useful, it’s not necessary for launch and can be added to the site later. During design consultations, we work to develop a design that both honors budgets and can grow as the company grows.
Truthfully, most small businesses don’t invest enough of their revenue in marketing in general, let alone websites. Experts recommend that new businesses invest as much as 35% of their revenue in marketing and that established businesses invest up to 18% of their revenue in marketing. If you need help setting up a realistic and sustainable budget for your small business, we recommend chatting with one of our business consultants so you can feel confident in your marketing investment.
“I won’t be able to edit my website once the design firm is done”
Small business owners often voice (legitimate) concern that, once a website design firm is finished with the site, they and their team won’t know how to use it, won’t be able to access and change content and images themselves, etc.
We believe that you paid for your website so it’s yours to use how you would like. To that end, we share admin-level passwords to everything we set up from the website backend to Google Analytics. We also create video tutorials on how to navigate and edit on the back-end of a website to make content and image updates. Your website is your marketing tool: you should be able to use it!
Market Your Small Business with a Custom Website
If you’re ready to end your frustration and grow your small business with a custom website design, give us a call. We’d love to start a conversation with you about strategically marketing your small business with a custom website design.
We invite you to schedule a conversation with one of our consultants to get started.