3 Simple (but Powerful) Website Design Tips for Any Business Owner
Whether you’re designing your own website from scratch, using an off-the-shelf theme, or hiring a designer to create your website, you’ll need to end up in the same place: with a website that performs for your business. Your website is often the first interaction people have with you and your business. That means it’s a make-or-break opportunity to turn a new visitor into a potential customer down the road.
Here are three tips that you can use when designing (or redesigning) your website to maximize the impact it has on new visitors.
- Focus on value. I don’t have to tell you that a great business is built on a strong value proposition. That is, why should customers care about your product or service, and how does it provide them with a return on their investment. The entire goal of your website must be to drive home your value proposition. Your goal should be to make it a “no brainer” for your customer to purchase—or, at the very least, get them to subscribe to hear more from you in the future. How do you do that? By shifting the focus away from you and onto your customer. It’s all about them. Understand the things they care deeply about—their pains and challenges—and craft the copy on your website to resonate with them on that level. Also, speak as if you’re talking to one person, not a crowd of people. This helps you make a connection that builds trust and credibility.
- Minimize distractions. One thing you never want a visitor to ask ask is, “Where do I go next?” If there are multiple calls to action, or the navigation has too many links to choose from, their attention is diverted in too many different directions. This means they’re too busy figuring out where to go, when they should be focused on your message and the benefits of your product or service. Here’s what I recommend: Break your navigation into a primary menu and a secondary one. Your primary navigation (the large one near the top of your website) should include links to only a handful of “mission critical” pages. These are the pages that educate and sell your product. The rest of the pages (e.g., a company about page, a FAQ page, and so on) can be included in your site’s secondary navigation, somewhere out of the way but still accessible.
- Optimize your call to actions. Everything on your marketing website should be designed around your “funnel.” That is, the path a customer takes from the home page (or a landing page) to eventually converting to a paying customer or subscriber. The bottom of the funnel is your “call to action.” This might be a button to purchase your product or signup for an account. Or it can be a newsletter opt-in or even a phone number to call you.
Here are three easy ways to optimize the call-to-action on your website:
- Be explicit. You never want to be vague in your call-to-action. Give your visitor explicit instructions on what exactly you want them to do. For example, a form button with the word “Submit” is too vague. Try something more descriptive, like “Subscribe to our newsletter!” You also want to set clear expectations. Your visitor should never be wondering “what will happen after I click this button?” For example, instead of “sign up!” you can try “Start your free 60-day trial!”
- Reduce Friction. Any transaction on the web always comes with some natural resistance. Customers simply are never fully comfortable entering their credit card information or even giving up their email address. There is always a fear of being ripped off, spammed, or scammed. So you must do everything you can to overcome that natural resistance. The way you do that is by reducing friction. Anything you can do to emphasize that there is no risk helps. For example, add the word “free” to the call-to-action (if it really is free). Or try adding small supporting text like “No credit card required, cancel anytime.” Offering a money-back guarantee (and making that visible) is also a good idea. You also want to make them feel secure. There is a very real fear that credit card info will end up in the wrong hands. So try adding security symbols like a lock icon on your credit card forms, indicating this form is secure (of course, the form must actually have security measures in place, like an SSL certificate).
- Differentiate them (visually). You’ll want to make sure your call-to-actions stand out visually. One way you can do that is to give them their own unique color. For example, let’s say the color scheme of your website is blue and gray. You might make all of your call-to-action buttons yellow. Make sure your CTA buttons are the only elements on the page using that color. This helps them stand out and attract attention, but it also helps your audience become more familiar with the way your site works. After browsing several pages, when they are ready to take action, they know they should look for that yellow button.
I hope you found these tips helpful as you go about designing (or redesigning) the marketing website for your business.
Effects of Technology on Business
Businesses have been at the forefront of technology for ages. Whatever can speed production will draw in more business. As computers emerged in the 20th century, they promised a new age of information technology. But in order to reap the benefits, businesses needed to adapt and change their infrastructure [source: McKenney]. For example, American Airlines started using a computerized flight booking system, and Bank of America took on an automated check-processing system.
Obviously, now, most business is conducted over personal computers or communication devices. Computers offer companies a way to organize dense databases, personal schedules and various other forms of essential information.
As information travels faster and faster and more reliably, barriers of distance disappear, and businesses are realizing how easy it is to outsource jobs overseas. Outsourcing refers to the practice of hiring employees who work outside the company or remotely — and even halfway across the world. Companies can outsource duties such as computer programming and telephone customer service. They can even outsource fast-food restuarant service — don’t be surprised if you’re putting in your hamburger order with a fast-food employee working in a different country entirely. Outsourcing is a controversial practice, and many believe that U.S. companies who take part are hurting the job market in their own country. Nonetheless, from a business perspective, it seems like the wisest route, saving companies between 30 and 70 percent [source: Otterman].
Another technology that’s starting to revolutionize business is actually not very new — it’s just cheaper these days. Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is infiltrating and changing business significantly in a few ways. Microchips that store information (such as a number equivalent of a barcode and even an up-to-date history of the chip’s travels) can be attached to product, and this helps companies keep track of their inventory.
Some businesses have even begun to use RFID chip implants in humans to tighten security. An access control reader detects the chip’s signal and permits the employee access to the door. But many people are concerned about privacy issues if this were to become widespread practice.
The Advantages of New Technology for Businesses
Cutting-edge technology can create high benefits for businesses that are willing to be early adopters. This strategy, however, requires businesses to abandon technologies that never fully mature or that are themselves dropped by their parent companies. A nimble implementation strategy allows entrepreneurs to realize the benefits of new technologies while avoiding business workflow issues when a technology cannot survive in the marketplace.
Create Barriers to Entry
For a small business, a technology should not be evaluated on its own merits but rather for the ways its implementation will allow your business to accomplish things that are impossible for your competitors. It does not matter if a technology speeds up your manufacturing process by 20 percent unless that speed is key to penetrating a market that you cannot otherwise reach. A new technology that is disruptive to the overall marketplace but that will give you the first-to-market advantage, is the best new process to consider.
Most businesses, like most organizations, tend at first to use new technologies in very similar ways to the older ones that they replaced. But a cell phone is not simply a wireless landline phone — it is also a device for rescheduling meetings on the fly, arranging for impromptu visits and avoiding congested traffic. Companies that saw mobile communications for these abilities had an immediate jump on companies that still organized around older telephone paradigms when cell phones gained widespread use. When considering a new technology, make an explicit list of underlying assumptions in your business model — then see if the technology makes any of them obsolete.
Radically Reduce Costs
Paradoxically, new technologies can be both a major source of expenses for your business, as well as a method of eradicating your biggest costs. Regular implementation of technology on the cutting edge means that sometimes you will need to abandon your investment: if the technology fails to work, if it is defeated by its competition or if its parent company folds. On the other hand, some technologies completely change the cost structure for the service they provide: Skype, for example, provides an inexpensive service that replaces both international phone calls and videoconferencing, which previously could cost thousands of dollars annually. Focus on the areas where you will see the biggest bang for your technology buck if a new technology succeeds — but be ready to abandon the cutting edge if it cannot deliver on these promises.
The Importance of Technology in Business
The Computer Trend – A Brief History
The last two decades have marked an enormous increase in the number of home computers. With it, computer owners have invariably taken to entrepreneurship in many varied fields. Thanks to the growth of technology, computers and the Internet, new methods have been developed for processing everyday business activities easily. Without the advent of technology, routine tasks would otherwise have taken and enormous amount of time and specialization. Undoubtedly, the computer represents the top technology development in the last century as it relates to businesses today, both large and small. Advances in the field of technology have created a vast number of business opportunities.
In 2003, the U.S. Small Business Administration produced a report/survey that established conclusively that more than 75% of small businesses owned computers and had heavily invested in new technology. Let us try to understand what the computers mean to businesses and how they contribute to increase their productivity.
Use of computers in Businesses
The fundamental reasons for the popularity of computers with small businesses are their efficiency, speed, low procurement cost and more than anything else, capability to handle multiple tasks with little chance for error.
Office Routines: Almost invariably, businesses loaded with the burden of increasing workloads and the pressures of being lean and mean, fall back upon technology for most of their administrative tasks. This work includes, among others, bookkeeping, inventory managing and email. The advent of the Internet has also substantially contributed in bringing down the costs of communication and marketing. In a nutshell, technology has reduced the overall cost of business operations.
New Business Opportunities: The explosion of Internet and e-commerce has opened up a plethora of opportunities for all types of businesses. New management methodologies, such as Six Sigma are easier to implement due to statistical software. Also, companies are able to train their own employees using in-house Six Sigma software programs, and as a result, save money on labor costs.
It is now possible to have many business functions operate on autopilot. This has opened up new opportunities for software development companies and business consultants. Another business trend that has opened up as a result of advancing technology is outsourcing. It is now possible for a company in America to have its data entry and customer service centers in overseas countries such as the UK. In this way, companies can service their customers 24/7.
Indispensable Components of Small Businesses
It is difficult to think of a situation where businesses can do without technology and computers today. It is extremely difficult to say whether businesses depend on computers or computers created business opportunities.
Software Specific To Small Businesses
Certain powerful, yet simple software has come to the rescue of small businesses in reducing their tasks and opening up new channels. Simple applications like spreadsheets and word processing helps them maintain accounts, finances and keep track of correspondence. These applications allow the users to customize reports and other functions to suit their particular business.
Both men and women in business have adapted successfully to new technology. But the SBA report cites the general decline in skill levels of people, which may eventually result in an overall reduction of income levels. It seems that people get used to technology doing all the work and tend to neglect their skill development. It is up to individual companies to make sure that their employees are still able to do crucial tasks without the assistance of computers, if necessary.
Why is Technology Important in Business?
Technology has important effects on business operations. No matter the size of your enterprise, technology has both tangible and intangible benefits that will help you make money and produce the results your customers demand. Technological infrastructure affects the culture, efficiency and relationships of a business. It also affects the security of confidential information and trade advantages.
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Communication With Customers
First and foremost, technology affects a firm’s ability to communicate with customers. In today’s busy business environment, it is necessary for employees to interact with clients quickly and clearly. Websites allow customers to find answers to their questions after hours. Fast shipment options allow businesses to move products over a large geographic area. When customers use technology to interact with a business, the business benefits because better communication creates a stronger public image.
Efficiency of Operations
Technology also helps a business understand its cash flow needs and preserve precious resources such as time and physical space. Warehouse inventory technologies let business owners understand how best to manage the storage costs of holding a product. With proper technology in place, executives can save time and money by holding meetings over the Internet instead of at corporate headquarters.
Business Culture and Class Relations
Technology creates a team dynamic within a business because employees at different locations have better interactions. If factory managers can communicate with shipment coordinators at a different location, tensions and distrust are less likely to evolve. Cliques and social tensions can become a nightmare for a business; technology often helps workers put their different backgrounds aside.
Most businesses of the modern era are subject to security threats and vandalism. Technology can be used to protect financial data, confidential executive decisions and other proprietary information that leads to competitive advantages. Simply put, technology helps businesses keep their ideas away from their competition. By having computers with passwords, a business can ensure none of its forthcoming projects will be copied by the competition.
A business that has the technological capacity to research new opportunities will stay a step ahead of its competition. For a business to survive, it must grow and acquire new opportunities. The Internet allows a business to virtually travel into new markets without the cost of an executive jet or the risks of creating a factory abroad.
Using Technology to Stay Competitive
As a business owner, it is vital that you understand and use advanced technologies. Technology can help increase business efficiency and even expand operations.
Accounting software. This is important, even if you have your own accountant or bookkeeper. Accounting software allows you to see your profits and losses at a glance. It can also help you design and maintain a budget for your business.
Planning software or tools. A calendar system is a must. There are many online planning systems that can be utilized to help you keep your calendar organized. Find a system that meets your business' needs and be sure to stick with it.
Time tracking software. A time tracking device will help you determine what tasks result in a profit and what tasks do not. This will help you determine what tasks can be eliminated, outsourced, or improved. If you’re looking at software that requires a fee, ask for a free trial first to make sure it’s the right software for you.
Email management. As a business owner, you probably use several email accounts to manage the various aspects of your company. If you streamline these emails to one account, you'll be able to stay organized and abreast of your emails.
Mobile internet access. Access to the internet on your mobile device will not only make your life easier, it will also help you maintain a positive reputation for your business. For example, if you are able to follow up with a client by email immediately after a meeting, you will be showing that you are accessible, timely and professional.
Once you decide which types of technology are right for you and your business, you'll be on your way to being more organized and efficient than ever.
A Brief History of the Use of Technology in Business
The use of technology in business has taken a sudden but remarkable upsurge in the history of man. In the old times, business took a slow pace, thanks to the lack of tools that would allow for faster business transactions. Everything was done with the help of some mechanical tools and the bare hands, which made it unthinkable to do business instantly.
A short course in the history of technology in business would allow one to see the radical yet dramatic shift from the old business procedures to the innovative approaches as seen today. In addition, it would also give one a better understanding of how important the use of technology in business is.
Innovations in technology started to rise in the nineteenth century. If you come to think about it, these inventions are rather simple, but their impact on business caused it to transform to what it is today. With a steady rise in the number of patents issued by the United States Patent Office, multiple segments of the economy revolved to gain benefits.
Some of the past innovative products and methods that helped to shape the face of business and economy are the barbed wire, cattle farming, railroad air brakes, sleeping cars, the camera, the carpet sweeper, and the typewriter. All of these had influenced the way people worked and led their daily lives. When these innovations were combined, they formed a powerful army that gave way to the massive use of technology in business.
Electricity and Communications
Industrial processes rely on sources of energy for them to be fully functional. Before electricity was utilized for this purpose, other natural sources such as coal and water were used. This is rather an unconventional way of fueling up factories because the said energy sources are not readily available for industrial use. With the discovery of the incandescent bulb by Thomas Edison, a series of other discoveries and inventions gave way for instant sources of energy.
Electric utilities were ushered in during the late 1800?s. Although these utilities had a low transmission range and limited power, wide residential use became possible. These utilities were further developed by George Westinghouse that made it possible to supply both residential homes and power-hungry industries the energy that they needed to perform daily business tasks.
Communications, on the other hand, was revolutionized with the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell. It was indeed a giant leap for communication, which ultimately affected the business world in many aspects. A necessary item in any business office, the telephone has certainly bridged the gap between many people and as far as business is concerned, it brought better relationships and opportunities from clients and customers.
The things that the past brought for the benefit of business using technology did not stop there. Typewriters were replaced by word processors, telephones have gone mobile, and every manual business transaction is being automated with various applications and software. The use of technology in business is innumerable and widespread. Even a short history of this would suffice for one to understand how revolutionary the changes have been.
Still, technology is always evolving as it continues to grow not only for business use, but also for the growth and utilization of other fields. Therefore, coping with change is imperative for one to reap the advantages of the use of technology in business.
The Role of Technology in Business
Technology in business is a growing necessity. As the years go by, the business world is leaning more and more toward it, making it almost impossible to separate the two from each other. Innovation breeds business, and since technology paves the way for it, it can be gathered here that business needs technology to be sustained.
Business has always existed since the early times of man. Even though it only began with the simplistic barter system, business would not be the same as it is today without the advancements in technology. All the major industries would fall into a catastrophic collapse if one were to take away technology from business, since majority of business operations and transactions somehow involve the use of technology.
Technology as a Business Necessity
The role of technology in business caused a tremendous growth in trade and commerce. Business concepts and models were revolutionized as a result of the introduction of technology. This is because technology gave a new and better approach on how to go about with business. It provided a faster, more convenient, and more efficient way of performing business transactions.
Some of actions of technology in business include accounting systems, management information systems, point of sales systems, and other simpler or more complicated tools. Even the calculator is a product of technology. It is indeed unfathomable to summon the idea of going back to the days where everything was done manually, which basically means starting all over again from scratch.
Security and Support
With the automated processes that technology can provide, productivity reaches a higher level. This is due to the minimal resources consumed in processing business activities, allowing room for better products produced and faster services delivered to more clients and customers.
Information is also stored with ease and integrity. With this, confidential and sensitive information are less prone to vulnerabilities. The said information can also be instantly retrieved and analyzed to monitor trends and make forecasts, which can be crucial in decision-making processes.
A Link to the World
Business involves communication, transportation, and more fields, making it a complex web of processes. The technologies pertaining to other fields only pushed business further. Globalization has been realized because of the wonders of technology. Anyone can now do business anywhere within being constricted to the four corners of his room.
Technology in business made it possible to have a wider reach in the global market. The basic example is the Internet, which is now a common marketing tool to attract more consumers in availing products and services offered by various businesses.
Indeed, technology in business ultimately made living worthwhile. It cannot be denied though that technological threats to business are growing rampant, such as hacking and other malicious activities, so one has to be responsible enough in utilizing the power of technology. The good that technology brings has some excess baggage in the form of bad things that threaten to shake the business world. In the end, it is still responsible use of these that would further allow us to enjoy the benefits that technology can bring.
Five Social Media Mistakes Your Startup Must Avoid
While using social media can be an effective marketing idea for startup companies on a small budget, executing them isn't always foolproof. Falling victim to any of the common flubs can end up damaging your business's reputation and chances for success.
Here are five of the most common social media mistakes and how you can avoid making them.
No. 1: Starting without a plan.
If you are tempted to skip creating a social media strategic plan for your business that outlines your goals and the resources you'll need to accomplish them, don't do it. By developing a plan, you create a critical foundation for which the rest of your social media efforts are based on.
Your first step to creating a strategic plan for your social media operation is to answer the following questions:
a. Do you know who your target audience is?
b. How do you plan to talk to them?
c. Do you know how your social media campaign ties into your traditional marketing plan?
d. Do you know who is going to staff your social media efforts?
e. Do you know your social media business objectives?
f. How will you measure your success?
Answer these questions along with your core team members — your lead sales, marketing and programming people. As you do so, take time to compare them to other social media strategies to help identify and fill gaps. For instance, web strategist Jeremiah Owyang has a frequently-updated list of social media strategies from larger companies.
Related: More Social Media Mistakes
Once your plan is set, determine who on your staff will be responsible for carrying it out and hold him or her accountable.
No. 2: Poorly timing social media posts.
One of the biggest mistakes I've seen startups make is not knowing who the customer is and how he or she behaves on the social web. For instance, a report from my marketing analytics firm KISSmetrics shows that nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population who use social media live in the Eastern Time Zone, and more than 30 percent are in the Central Time Zone. The report suggests that tweets posted at about 5 p.m. have the highest chance of being clicked on and shared. So, for example, if your business is on Pacific Time and you tweet at 5 p.m., you'd miss the "sweet spot" of more than 80 percent of the U.S. population.
No. 3: Breaking social media rules of etiquette.
Don't start a social media campaign without having at least a basic understanding of some of the rules. Here is a simple list I follow:
- Start conversations by asking thought-provoking questions. Tapping into trends can be a great way to increase engagement among your social followers. You can find these trends on What the Trend or the home pages of general and industry news sites.
- Don't follow someone on Twitter, then unfollow them when they follow you. The only reason you should follow a person or a brand is because you value the content he or she shares.
- Promote other people as well as your own brand. For every personal social media mention you share, you should mention another person or business five times. When you do self-promote, make it a short mention that focuses on the benefit for your readers.
- Don't spread yourself too thin. Focus on using four networks or fewer at a time. Otherwise, you might not have the time to consistently provide relevant content that engages users.
No. 4: Failing to measure social media success.
Although it might not be easy to measure something like a conversation, you are able to measure factors such as your total online community size, the number of mentions of your brand across the social web and all the traffic referred to your business's website. The following tools can help you stay on top these important metrics:
- PageLever is a paid tool that helps you see your impressions for any date range on Facebook.
- Simply Measured is a paid tool that can collect social media data such as engagement per blog post, or tweet distribution per country into an Excel report.
- SocialMention is a free search engine that allows you to have alerts sent to you daily containing mentions made online of you and your brand.
No. 5: Ignoring your competitors.
Knowing who your competitors are and what they are doing is just as important as knowing everything about your own business.
To keep an eye on your competitors over social media, look at their website, locate the social media icons, sign up as a fan and start watching what they do. It's just as important to see what their fans are saying and use those reactions to improve your own business. For example:
- Are your competitors' fans complaining about a missing feature? Can you easily and profitably include that feature into your product?
- Are they praising something both you and your competitor do, but you aren't actively promoting it in your ads? Maybe you should.
- What emotions do their fans seem to connect with in regard to your competitors' products? Can you tap into that same emotion?
If you have a strategic plan, and avoid the above mistakes, social media can give your startup a cost-effective marketing boost. Additionally, your plan help remind you why you're spending time on social networks and how to improve your efforts moving forward.