Base of Operations- Your Address
One of the most important things you can do in the new business landscape is build a home base for your business- specifically, a website. Currently over half of all small business owners do not have a website, and I am sure that statistic is even larger for potters and ceramic artists. As one small business advocate put it, “You might as well be a ghost. The customers and opportunities pass right through you.” If we are going to be competitive in today’s market place, then this ought to be a high priority for anyone who seriously wants to sell their wares. Here are a few reasons why.
IT'S A PLACE OF YOUR OWN
Owning a domain name is like owning your own home address. I am no longer a fan of the free website services. There are too many catches that come with that free sticker price. But the most important issue is the care for your potential customer. As soon as you have to say MySite.blogspot.com or MySite.Wordpress.com, or any other extended URL address, most people’s eyes start to glaze over. You want to own your site with a simple MySite.com, or .ca, or .net, or… That’s a place of your own that people can find easily.
IT'S WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE
If you are trying to make sales in the physical world what you wouldn’t do is find some old dirt road in the middle of the desert and set up a stand. You just wouldn’t get anyone stopping to buy from you because you’ve chosen an un-trafficked place. The old three keys to success as a business are still true- Location. Location. Location.
Approximately 40% of the world’s population has internet connection. Just 20 years ago (1995) that percentage was less than 1%. It took 10 years (2005) for that number rise to 1 billion. The 2 billion mark took only 5 years to attain (2010), and then in in 2014 that number hit 3 billion! All of that to say that your potential customers are online. You want and need to be where your potential customers are hanging out.
IT'S WHERE THE OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND
Depending upon which study you read, between 80 to 89% of consumers today turn to the internet to search for products and services before they purchase- and that is up from only 58% in 2010 (who knows what it will be in another 5 years!). By having a presence on the web you have just created the opportunity for people to find you. Here is a sample of the opportunities that being online create:
1 Visibility- You make yourself findable. As stated above, the world is looking online. By being there you can be found.
2 Reach- The old way of doing business was limited to the local word of mouth and the Yellow Pages. By going online you extend your reach to a global market.
3 Competitive- You become a player in a world where your competition is already rockin’ it with their website. With a great looking website you can reach the same people that the big stores are reaching. You can even steal a few sales away from the big box stores. If you are not online, then your customers will go to your competition.
4 Credibility- With a great looking website comes an image of professionalism. It allows you to tell your customers that you take your business seriously.
5 Sales- Isn’t this the point of business? When you have all the pieces in place you should have more opportunities to get more sales to more people.
IT'S A RELATIONSHIP BUILDER
This may be the single most important purpose of building a website. Though the landscape of commerce has changed, the heart of it has not. People still buy from people that they know, like, and trust. You have the opportunity to meet people and for people to meet you. You can tell your story, showcase your product line, and create great customer service. Your website helps you start two-way conversations.
TOOLS (WITH SOME EXPLANATIONS)
Think of a website as your base, or home. It is made up of three basic components- the address, the property, and building. The address is the domain name, the property is the host, for your website, and the building is what the website is constructed with.
The domain: There is a lot of technical jargon that can be stated at this point, but suffice it to say that a domain name is intended to a user-friendly and memorable “nickname” for a website. In short, the address. The domain name is not free, but it is typically very cheap to purchase- usually for less than $10 a year.
Once you get your domain name, you will need someplace to actually park it. We call that a hosting site. My favorite place to host is bluehost. They have very competitive prices and have excellent customer service. If you have questions, just jump on their chat line and they have answers.
Once you have a host, the last thing you need is an actual theme. I am a huge fan of WordPress for building your website. I know there are a number of “drag and drop” options, but they have some pretty serious limitations. WordPress will give you amazing flexibility and most of the themes are essentially plug-and-play easy to set up. Plus it’s free to install and download and you can create virtually any kind of website. It’s open source which means anyone can modify it as they see fit. The process can take as little as 20 minutes to launch your website with thousands of free themes that look highly professional.
For a little help on getting WordPress setup, here is a great resource: http://www.wpbeginner.com/how-to-install-wordpress/ This site as simple to use instructions and will get you up and going in now time at all.