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The Horror: Small Businesses Increasingly Rely on 3rd Party Companies

Utilizing someone else’s services for your business is a fact of life for most small businesses and increasingly, large businesses.  Relying on security, servers, and terms of services from services from Apple to YouTube (I couldn’t think of a ‘Z’ company), you have to have faith that they will continue providing the services they initially offered when you signed up, for the same prices and with the same terms attached.  For many, especially people that feel the need to control a situation, this is a scary proposition.

That being said, services like Facebook, Twitter, Vimio, and the like are difficult to forgo for many small businesses that don’t have the expertise, budget or resources to serve the same function on their own.  In fact, for any size business, it is impossible to provide the same function and reach as widely used services like Facebook and Twitter.  So what does a business owner do to help feel better about their situation?

While situations liked the LinkedIn hacking that occurred 2 weeks ago are increasingly more common, so are additional security measures meant to stop it from occurring again.  And while there is always the very real possibility of a .com service of going out of business, the larger the company, the less likely it is to occur.  So pick your server providers, video providers, email clients, etc carefully.  Don’t be afraid to try the new kid on the block who is offering cheaper prices and a slicker interface, but remember that they have a greater likelihood of failing than a publically traded company or an experienced privately owned company.

Why would Sharp Guys Web Design, a relative newcomer to the Indianapolis web design market, mention this?  Well because all of our clients utilize servers and services from industry stalwarts that are exactly as described – less likely to fail or change their terms and prices.  Since all of our website designs are sold as a project, owned by our clients, and based on the open source and widely used, WordPress platform, the risk is further minimized.

 

 

3 Easy Fixes for Small Business Websites

We do small business website design and there seems to be several things that their websites often have issues with that are all relatively easy fixes.

Number 1 – businesses don’t make their contact information easily accessible – this should really be available throughout the webpage and any number of different areas but it should certainly be available on the bottom of your site. There should also be a way for potential clients/existing clients to contact you with questions, not just a lead form.  People should feel comfortable enough to ask questions and not expect a sales pitch.

Number 2 – if you have your email address easily accessible, don’t use an AOL, Comcast or Cox Cable-type address. Those types of email addresses make you look like a fly-by-night business and I have found that even companies selling technology have email addresses that are from the 1990’s.  There is nothing wrong with keeping those old email addresses but set up a new one that features the name of your .com.  It just looks more professional and is an easy switch to make.  You can even make the new email address forward all emails to your old email address.  One other thing, email addresses are nearly always free so make more than one of them.  Even if you are just a small shop, you can easily have 3 email addresses.  One should be called info@domain.com, the second should be for leads and be called sales@domain.com and the final one should be your personal business email address and be called yourname@domain.com.  These are simple changes but will always ensure your business looks like it is here for the long haul – not some Nigerian prince run shop.

Number 3 – Have a call to action. Regardless of your business model, a call to action is important.  If you are a plumber, you are obviously not asking for payment on your website but you could easily provide a form for your guest to fill out their email address.  Why?  The value add is that you could send them a white paper with the work you do, quotes from your past customers and an example of the damage to the wallet and to the structure of a building unchecked water leaks can do.  You also have their email address going forward for future coupons, sales, etc and your company is on their mobile devices email if they have another leak.  A .com site may have a much more classic call to action where a signup leads to an auto reply email with whatever you promised them for signing up.  These rewards don’t have to be huge, nor do they have to be discounts.  Remember that people are coming to you because you are an expert.  A little bit of expert information may just give them the incentive they need to sign up for your email newsletter or put themselves on your mailing list.

Using a Client to Write Your Weekly Blog

Writing something interesting about websites, search engine optimizations and the like isn’t always easy.  A lot of company’s hire outside writers to do this job or hire a specific staff member because it can be grueling.  However, that isn’t the case with every company I come across.  Indianapolis companies like Slingshot SEO and T2 Systems actually use their own staff to write their weekly blogs.  If possible, it is for the best.  After all, who knows your product better than the person who sells it, develops it, etc on a day to day basis.  Well – possibly one person; the client.

A client based blog can be an amazing addition to your weekly or monthly blogging repertoire.  First off, it shows your client that you respect what they do and you value their opinion.  Secondly, it gives you some additional insight into how they use your software or service.  Finally, it sells visitors to your site on your services because you aren’t doing your own sales pitch – your clients are.

Regardless if you use this method for a weekly blog or just once per quarter, utilizing a client to write your blog can be a neat idea that you can bet, not a lot of your competitors are using.  Try it out sometime and let us know what kind of results you have been able to achieve.