It may sound simplistic, but our first piece of advice when it comes to websites is, have one! Without fail, people will ask about social media accounts and various sales channels (like Etsy) as alternatives to creating a website. Bad idea! When it comes to your biz, you’ve got to build your own house - don't be afraid to do that and create a website.
So often we see folks getting caught up in marketing their small business on social media or even working their tails off to get newsletter sign ups. Now, don’t get us wrong, those are great ways to boost your business. But the problem is, they expect those efforts to take the place of building a solid website. And they just don’t.
Create a Website: Build Your Own House
When you create your own website, you call the shots. Like building a house, you control how it looks, you choose who to invite in, and you even get to set the house rules. In contrast, on sites like Etsy, Artfire, and even Facebook, you are a guest in someone else’s home. Therefore, they set the rules. And they don’t consult you when they change them.
Think about it, how often have you heard someone say, “I bought this from Etsy.” They don’t say, “I bought this from Suzy’s Soap Shop.” Instead, Etsy gets the credit. And Facebook? Their goal is to keep customers on Facebook, not on your page. Heck, they can lock you away in an unseen corner and up your rent to boot. In addition, they can kick you out anytime the want, no matter how big your ‘family’ of fans has grown.
You can grumble and complain every time you get a notice of updated terms of service. Or, you can smarten up and create a website of your very own.
Ready to Create Your Website?
If you are getting ready to create a website for your soap biz, you might want to get your ducks in a row first and figure out your budget. We've created a go-to guide to help you cover all the bases in your website budget, from domain registration to hosting, platforms, copywriting, and more. Join us in Next Level to snag yours!
Also, if you're depending on Facebook to keep you in business, and they give you the boot, how are your customers going to get your change of address card? If you have your own domain, all those roads you build on social media will lead back to your website. So, folks will always know where you call home! You can even use search engine optimization (SEO) to draw them a roadmap.
Don't Push Your Guests Out the Door
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in homes where I’ve felt welcome, but, others, not so much. The last thing you want is to get customers to your website only to have them bounce. Instead, have them sign the ‘guestbook’ to be added to your email newsletter. Then, when they leave, you’ll be able to invite them back.
Make it easy to accomplish the reason for their visit. Are they wanting to learn more about your brand? Make a purchase? Get updates? Don’t make them work for it! Remember, a good hostess anticipates her guests' needs and provides for them without being asked. Create a website that does the same.
So, have I talked you into it? Are you ready to start working towards website success? Let’s do this...
The Great Debate: Is Design or Content the King of the House?
When you are trying to get a website up, it’s easy to get lost in minutia (I'm guilty!), especially if you have a perfectionist personality. But we are here to help!
Some aspects of your website are absolute musts. Going back to our house analogy... the roof is a must, walls are a must. Electricity and plumbing, I don’t want to live without those. But the monogrammed hand towels? Those can wait, right?
You may have heard that when you create a website, content is king. Or maybe you heard that design is king. The truth is, everything working together for your customer is king. If you get so caught up in the perfect look that you neglect a working shopping cart... well, have you ever seen a roof with no walls? That’s not a good place to be, especially if your building fund has hit red!
What’s the solution? We call it the minimum viable website. You may have heard us talk about minimum viable income (MVI), the minimum amount of cash you need to bring in from your business to live and function. Well, the minimum viable website is the minimum you need to bring your customers in and serve their (and your business’s) needs.
Create a Minimum Viable Website to Start With
When you can tick off nine specific checkboxes, you have a minimum viable website. When you create a website, here's what it needs to be:
- a money saver
Can you check any of these off? Where do you need to put in more work? Let's talk about each one!
Findable: When You Create a Website, You Need to Feed the Google Machine
Let’s face it, creating a website isn’t going to do your business a damn bit of good if no one can find it. And for people to be able to find it, search engines have to be able to find it.
In order for search engines to find your business's website, you need to update your content. And that content needs to be relevant to the audience you are trying to reach. We will dive deeper into SEO in another post. For now, just remember that a stagnant site is not going to please the Google gods.
Informative: Make Sure to Be Fresh and Relevant on Your Website
There should be zero doubt the you are an active thriving business! The last thing you want is for visitors to see your site and wonder why it hasn’t been updated for months. Are you still in business? They can't tell! I've seen so many soap biz websites that have craft shows from 2013 on their upcoming events page or a blog post from 2015 as their latest news. Ack!
Also, if you are selling soap, keep in mind that visitors shouldn’t feel like they’ve wandered into a space geared towards DIYers. Tutorial videos, soapmaking jargon, and sharing supplier sales are not relevant to your audience. So, take off your soapmaker hat and put on your marketing hat for this job, y’all!
Functional: Create a Website that Gives the Info Folks are Looking for
You site needs to tell customers what they want to know. Duh, right?! But, how many times have you gone to a restaurant website and not been able to find the hours? Or a menu? Heck, even the address?
For a soap and cosmetic biz with a brick and mortar shop, don’t forget info like location and hours. No physical shop? Instead, tell people where to buy and how to care for their products. (Don’t worry, once your site is up, you will have plenty of questions for your FAQ! Listen to your customers when they tell you what you missed.)
All that info doesn’t just need to be there, it needs to be able to be found intuitively. Otherwise, you just slammed the door on your customer. And created a LOT more support emails for yourself. (That's IF your potential customer is motivated enough to take the time to message you. Don’t count on it.)
Clear: Convey Your Brand Message with Crystal Clarity
Every aspect of your website should be overflowing with brand clarity. Your ideal customer should feel like they have found their home away from home from the moment they hit up your site. And they should instantly see that you can fulfill their needs so they have zero hesitation about buying from you. Your copy, content, how the site is built - EVERYTHING -should make it crystal clear that they are in the right place.
Targeted: Craft Your Website for the Customers You Want
This one's a biggie. One of the most important aspects of a successful website is that it's aimed square at the right folks. You must create a website that is targeted for the customers you want. And that may not be the customers you currently have. Also, it’s probably not your cousin’s kid who is majoring in web design. Your website is all about showing love for your perfect customer, the most honored guest in your cyber home.
Keep in mind, this targeted approach absolutely means that some people are NOT going to love your site. They are going to feel like a fish out of water if they land there. They will hate it and probably let you know why. That is how it should be. Haters are confirmation that you are getting it right.
Trying to be all things to all people is the opposite of brand clarity. (Did I just blow your mind? Join us in Next Level and check out our Brand Magic Workbook, your number one, self-paced resource for building a solid, successful brand. We don’t call it magic for nothin’.)
Nurturing: Turn Customers into Brand Loyalists
A good customer buys regularly and makes you a few bucks. A great customer does the same and tells everyone they know how awesome you are. They are proud of your brand and stand up for it every chance they get.
So, how do you convert a customer with some knowledge about your brand to a brand loyalist that will talk you up and go to bat for you? Nurture them. Make them feel included. Take every opportunity you can to remind them that they are part of something beyond themselves. Your website is the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Interactive: Your Website is the Start of a Conversation, Not a Lecture
Have you ever been to a dinner party at someone’s home and there was that guy. Maybe he was the most book smart person in the room, but he wasn’t the most likable. Why? Because he failed to understand the difference between a conversation and a lecture.
Don’t be that guy. Don’t create a website that consists of huge blocks of text and nothing else. Don't use soapmaking jargon, academic language, or run-on sentences. You want visitors to have options, make connections, and feel welcome. So, you don’t want them to feel trapped in a textbook.
Networked: Use Your Website to Connect the Dots
Did you have those worksheets in elementary school where you drew a line from dot to dot until you saw the whole picture? Your website should should provide all the points your perfect customer needs to see the full picture that is your business. And don’t make them work for it!
You want to be able to connect to your customer wherever they are, not just at your house. Do you do shows? Share an up-to-date schedule. Have stockists? Link ‘em up. Are your social media channels hopping? Post your (clickable) handles. Your website is always home base, but it doesn’t hurt to take a tour of the rest of the neighborhood now and again. After all, you’re sure to meet new friends to invite over!
Money Saver: Your Most Effective (and Least Expensive) Marketing Method
Websites are pricey. We get it. (Seriously, you should see the bills to keep the lights on here at Modern Soapmaking.)
The great thing about a minimum viable website is that is will actually save you money. Per connection, a website is the most effective and least expensive marketing tool that you could ever hope for.
People often forget that spending time on your business is as expensive as spending money on your business. “Time is money” is a cliche for a reason - it’s true!
Folks clamor to social media, often while neglecting their website, because they think it’s free. It’s not. It’s a time suck. You have to work hard to get your numbers up, and each connection you make is eating up your time. And in the end, you don't get to control how to reach those connections or what to say to them!
A well-put-together website does the outreach for you. It’s working for you while you are sleeping, or making product, or homeschooling your kids.
In addition, it requires minimal upkeep. You could spend hours answering individuals’ questions on social media about your brand and products, or you can create a rockstar website with a thorough FAQ section to do the work for you.
Are you ready to jump in and do the work to get your website going or bring it up to snuff? Awesome! We are going to be bringing you a lot more guidance in the future to help you tick off all those boxes.
Do these concepts make sense to you? What questions popped into your mind while you were reading? Share in the comments.
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