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Why a website?
Although we’d all like to think we are the best in our trade, the reality is that we all have competition. Even if business is booming now, there are no guarantees the bubble won’t burst tomorrow. And where it used to be a handful of other local guys or gals we were aware of, the Internet has created a new battlefield and a new set of players, all competing for the same work. For instance, a common Google search phrase for “electricians near me” pulled up 4,980,000 search results. That means if you’re not on page one of those results, odds are you’re not getting called. And if you don’t have a website, you’re odds of being on page one are mighty slim.
While directories (trade or membership directories such as IEC Chesapeake, Yelp, The Better Business Bureau, Home Advisor, and others) are certainly a good start, they are largely out of your control. However with your own website, you control the message, your story, the perception you want to get across, the type of electrical work you can provide (residential or commercial), any unique credentials or testimonials you have, the geographic area in which you work, and other aspects that will set you apart from your competition. Without it, you’re just a name in the equivalent of modern day phone book.
Research states that 82% of people conduct online research before making a buying decision.
The bottom line? If you don’t have a website, you’re missing out on opportunities for prospects to find you, and making it more difficult for current customers to successfully refer you.
Who, what, when and how much?
Let’s start with the “how much” because let’s face it, that’s typically one of the biggest determining factors for most trade businesses. Some believe, “Money out the door is less money in my pocket.” But in order to sustain and thrive in a competitive marketplace, you need to invest in your continuing education, your people and your brand. Below are some guidelines:
If you’re tech savvy and have some free time on your hands, you could build yourself a successful website almost free of charge. Depending on your needs and if you want to run a third party’s ads on your website (not recommended), you could be looking at a range of $5-$25/month. Now keep in mind this does not include building a strategy, a concept, the actual design, writing the content, managing the site to keep it updated and populating it with photos or videos.
Therefore, the above is a good place to start if you are small on staff and budget and willing to take this on completely by yourself. However to hire a professional to take care of all of the aspects of building a strategic website that will look good and perform well (meaning generate leads), and build it on a website platform that will work equally well on mobile devices such as phones and tablets, and grow as you grow, you should budget at least $10,000.
You also want to make sure that you work with a website partner that can train you on the back end of your site so that you or another internal person can edit the site if you need to without incurring a fee every time you want to make a text edit or upload a new project photo.
As for when…yesterday! Seriously though, there’s no time like the present and it does take some time to create a successful online presence. You should bank on at least a month or even longer, depending on the complexity of your business, the decision making process and your website partner’s project management skills. And each day that goes by, means another day of missed opportunities.
If you build it they will come. Maybe.
Remember those 4,980,000 search results we mentioned earlier? To increase your search engine ranking so more people can find you in this flood of search results, you will need to have your website “search engine optimized” (SEO’ed). Other factors go into making your listing more prominent too, such as social media profiles, articles and press releases written by you or about you with a link back to your website, directory listings, pay-per-click ads (PPCs), and more.
As Pat Benetar says, “Love is a Battlefield”. She may be right, but so is the Internet. Are you ready to rumble? If not, get started using the tips above and if you need help, give us call at 410-366-9479 x101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dina Wasmer is President and CMO of Incite Creative, a marketing strategy firm that helps businesses and organizations get the most bang from their marketing bucks.