There was a time when people exchanged business cards with their names, telephone numbers and addresses on them, and that was all that was expected. That's not the case any longer.
Your clients now expect that you have a website. Your website though, is so much more than just your contact information. A website allows a potential client to snoop around your business, what you do, how you represent yourself, and discover other things about you that perhaps you didn't disclose when you first met. It also is a way for you to communicate quickly and in your own voice to clients and prospects, sell product, schedule appointments, teach classes, build brand loyalty, accept payments, and more. It literally has the potential to be your business office online.
Keep in mind the image you give through your website can make or break a potential client relationship. For instance, have you ever pulled up someone's website, and it's so cluttered and dark that it's hard to read? Perhaps it was a black background with red or grey lettering. Then when you start to read it, you discover lots of typographical errors strewn throughout and outdated information such as upcoming events that have already passed. To top it off, you go to the person's blog page, and they haven't posted anything in months or years. What impression do you have? If you're like me, it's that the person really doesn't care much about their business. In fact, I might even wonder if the business is actually a viable entity, given the outdated nature of the information on it.
Your website can also tell a potential client that you're able to keep up with technological advancements, be reactive to changing trends and more, based upon what's presented on your website and how. Consider a website that has video clips explaining a complicated design process for their product, or a website that includes a shopping cart, pop-up customer service during business hours, a scheduling calendar or members-only section.
Some businesses don't require lots of bells and whistles. So how do you know what your clients are expecting from you? How much website do you really need? Take a look at the websites for your competitors. What are they offering? Ask your current clients what features they'd like to see on your website. Then approach a web designer with your list in hand and ask for their insights.
Also consider whether you want or know how to maintain your website. There are certain platforms for websites that are much easier to update than others, and with less potential for crashing if you do something wrong. If you want to update your site frequently but you choose a platform that requires someone else to make the changes, find out what it will cost to have those changes made, and how quickly they can be done. It may be cost-prohibitive for you. Also, some larger web developing companies are scheduling appointments months in advance, meaning that posting last-minute deals, coupons and openings may not be possible.
Ronnie Roll is a published author, regular columnist, and entrepreneur that provides support services that allow business owners to do what they do best - run their businesses.