Build it they will come

Way back when (late 1990’s) — which is considered eons in internet years, the future of e-commerce was anybody’s guess. But even then, entrepreneurs and progressive futurists alike agreed that a large portion of future business transactions and marketing tactics would be derived through an “on-line portal” (the internet).

In the past 15 years, the internet has changed so drastically that it’s hard to remember what a vastly different place it was. Back then, developers would spend weeks writing incredibly complicated codes to build what we would consider today, a painfully dreadful website. What’s funny (and slightly embarrassing), there are still companies out there using the same web design they had in the 90’s.

Today, with the infinite number of online tools available, it couldn’t be easier to build and sustain an active website, either for personal or business purposes. However, even with these tools at our finger tips, more than half (54 percent) of all small businesses in Ohio still don’t have a website, according to a recent stats release from Google.

So, if building a website was so easy, why don’t more businesses have them? The top procrastinating reasons are:
1.Change
2.Knowledge (technical)
3.Purpose (marketing power)
4.Time
5.Cost

We, as humans, find security in habit. Change makes us uncomfortable because it requires adjustment which forces us to make both mental and physical re-arrangements. But, in order to survive we have to adapt!

Case in point, Forbes did an article not too long ago about the Yellow Pages and how they’ve gone by the wayside in terms of being an effective marketing tool.

The buyer journey has been fundamentally changed by the Internet. Today, 60 to 70 percent of the buyer’s journey is completed before a salesperson is ever contacted. That means that buyers have already researched their problem, potential solutions, and investigated the viability of those solutions. They have evaluated the vendors, conducted reference checks via social media and even gone so far as to test the short listed solutions by visiting colleagues who are using the product or downloading free trial versions. For the most part, all this happens without the company’s knowledge. By the time the buyer contacts a salesperson, they have a specific list of questions and a price they are willing to pay. That leaves the B2B sales team with frustratingly little opportunity to influence the buyer’s needs.

Competing in today’s market without a website is like trying to catch fish in a dry pond. Today’s client is a social web hound-dog, sniffing through every possible online portal finding out who you are, who you know, how good you are, and if you can find them the best deal out there.

And, if you think your name doesn’t exist on the internet, it does – somewhere – and they’ll find you. So it’s best they find the positive things about you, right?

The old adage of ‘what got you to where you are today is not enough to get you to where you need to be tomorrow’ is more relevant today than ever before.

Fortunately for you, building a website today is easier and more cost-effective than you might think. Today, business owners can build a sleek, fully functional multi-page website with hosting for under $200. Sound crazy? Keep reading.

When it comes to finding a home for your website, there are a number of options. The most popular website builder, GoDaddy.com, is a simple source to get your website up and running. GoDaddy is also great for those of us who are tech challenged, providing pre-designed templates and guiding you through the process of registering and launching your site. GoDaddy’s packages start at just $10 a month. However, be careful, GoDaddy is known for constantly trying to upsell you. They also limit you on design templates and it takes some time to get use to the admin controls. They do offer 24/7 support for any concerns or questions.

Dreamhost.com is becoming one of the more popular hosting websites because of their design options, user interface and bang for the buck. The basic Dreamhost hosting package includes unlimited storage space, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited number of e-mail addresses and unlimited domains for hosting (essentially, you can set up multiple websites with one Dreamhost account). This basic package runs just $9.95 a month or $119.40 a year. Another great option about Dreamhost is that you can incorporate WordPress into your website.

WordPress, originally created as a blogging platform, has evolved into one of the most popular content management system’s (CMS) capable of powering just about any type of website. WordPress is a type of website software that is installed on your server to help you easily and effortlessly manage and organize your content. Also, WordPress is free!

With Dreamhost, you can incorporate a custom third-party WordPress design, which allows you to install any type of plug-in, theme, and add-on to your website. These add-ons and themes generally run between $40 and $90 for a single-use license and come in a variety of easy-to-use templates for specific business types.

Templatic.com (third-party WordPress designer) offers a wide variety of real estate themed designs and provides an easy-to-use format for property listings and agent profiles.

If you do decide to use DreamHost for your hosting needs, be sure to use the promo code SAVEMONEY, which offers a $50 instant discount on all DreamHost plans.

Some other great website builders that have great designs, are easy to operate, mobile friendly and inexpensive are:

Squarespace.com – Sleek and sophisticated with lots of room for customization.

Webs.com – Insanely flexible. Tons of options. Webs will surprise you with how much creative freedom you have.

Weebly.com – Unparalleled in ease of use and flexibility. Has an uncanny way of giving what you need when you need it.

Edicy.com – An elegant, easy to use website builder that nails the fundamentals.

Virb.com – A limited but easy to use website editor package with some stunning designs.

Yola.com – Great for SEO and full of clever features that make building a website fun and easy.

Jimdo.com – A strong e-commerce editor and some neat integration make this website builder stand out.

Let’s say you don’t have the time to build a website on your own or you want your own custom design, there are plenty of services out there that will build your website from the ground up – but it will cost you.

On average, a basic package for a website designer, including hosting, design, and content management software will cost you anywhere from $1,200-$5,000.

If you’re looking at incorporating additional features, such as mobile platforms, multi-media (video), advertising integration, content integration, IDX, SEO and social media, packages can run upwards to $20,000.

When budgeting for a website, it’s incredibly important to decide only what you need, then build from there. Do your research; compare prices with other website developers in central Ohio. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to the premium package. If you’re an independent agent you really don’t need all the bells and whistles, just go with the basics. Finally, boutique agencies and freelancers typically are the least expensive because of competition from larger agencies and low overhead. Try your luck with them first, and then go from there. Where do you find a designer? Google “web designers in Columbus” – there’s a plethora of them.

Even if you already have a website, it’s always a good idea to keep it fresh and new. Businesses should be updating their website every 18 months; if you’ve had the same design for the past eight years, it’s time for an upgrade.

Whatever you decide to do, either building the website yourself or having one built, make sure you do it right. It’s better to have no website at all than to have one that makes you look bad. Your site speaks volumes about your business. It either says, “I take pride in my work to provide my clients with the utmost professionalism” or it says, “A website? Oh yea I have one of those, my five year old nephew made it! He reads at a 5th grade level!”

The choice is yours – build your business and roll with the times – online, or sit back with the Yellow Pages and see what happens. Most likely, your listing book will kindle the fire on some cold winter nights.

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