Not only does a successful contractor need to be online, they need to do it the right way. Here’s how. Let’s say you’re a new homeowner. In the United States, that means you’re about 30 years old. You have a job, you may have a young family and you may even own your own business. At 30 years old, the internet is older than you are; the Blackberry smartphone was introduced when you were in high school; you likely don’t subscribe to any magazines, and you don’t remember the last time you touched a phone book. When you need to find a local business, you use the internet – just like more than 90 percent of consumers (according to a 2010 survey by BIA Kelsey).
In other words, if you are a typical new homeowner or young business owner, the web is the first place you go to find everything – including an electrician, a plumber or an HVAC contractor.
More than many other industries, tradespeople have been conservative in adopting the internet as a primary source for connecting to new customers. Perhaps this is because contractors have traditionally counted on word-of-mouth advertising as their main source of promotion. Even this is changing, however, as online reviews and referral sites gain popularity (even in smaller communities). Experts agree that in today’s competitive marketplace, a website is a necessity, and a good website can offer a powerful advantage.
Don’t panic if your company’s website is seven years old or if you don’t have one at all. Modern web development has come a long way in making it easier than ever to make a positive impression online. Best of all, you can maintain a solid web presence without breaking the bank. If you have a website or still need one, here are six tips for getting your website right.
1. Consider Your Customers
Do you mainly work on commercial jobs or do you focus on residential? Do your profits come from installs or from service calls? Think about your customers, then think a little bit about how they use the internet. What kinds of information will they expect to find on your website? The more questions you can successfully answer through your website, the further along the sales process can be when you finally meet a prospective customer. Don’t forget about your current customers, either! If there is paperwork or correspondence that is done repeatedly, why not use the web to make those tasks easier for everybody involved?
2. Find A Partner
Nowadays, a good website is an interesting balance of technical nerd voodoo and DIY elbow grease. Start by finding a web company that can help you to lay the foundation for your site. Depending on your needs (or how unique you want it to look), this can mean a huge provider that allows you to use a simple template or a custom code contractor that can build a site that fits your needs more accurately. Either way, you’ll want to make sure that the CMS (which stands for content management system) is easy to learn and use. That way, you can add or subtract content – text, contact information, photos and even forms – without relying on somebody else. The most popular CMS today is called WordPress, but there are many to choose from.
3. Respect The Net
Think of your website in the same way you do your service vehicles. If they are sloppy and old-fashioned, people might perceive your business as sloppy and old-fashioned. In fact, in a vast majority of instances, your website is the first impression your company makes. Successful contractors understand how important this perceived reality can be so they keep the vehicles that bear their name – and their websites – looking attractive and up-to-date. This is why a good, easy-to-use CMS (see #2) is so important. It makes this job a lot easier.
4. Get Responsive
The title for this section could also read “think mobile.” A responsive website is simply one that adapts itself to accommodate users who visit your site via a smartphone or a tablet. It may seem amazing, but more users view the internet today with their mobile device than they do with a desktop or a laptop computer. No wonder it’s so important for your site to be responsive. Make sure to ask about this when you first meet or contact your web development partner. Mobile usage is only going to become more prominent, and you want your site to be inviting and easy to use.
5. Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew, Then Make Maintenance Somebody’s Job
Effective websites are living, breathing things. They need to be maintained periodically and cared for or they fall into disrepair and make you look bad. Don’t promise things on your site that you can’t accomplish. For example, if you create a “News” page, you must keep it current. There’s nothing like a three-year-old news story to say “we don’t follow through” to your customers. Build your site with this in mind – then assign its upkeep to a team member. Things get done more consistently and carefully when they are somebody’s job.
6. Remember To Recruit
A website can be a powerful factor in recruiting new employees. After all, the first place a prospective hire will go to find out more about your company is almost always your website. If you don’t have one, or if it looks out-of-date, it might give that potential crew member a bad impression, especially if that person is a tech-savvy millennial. Make sure that your site communicates the benefits of working for you beyond wages and insurance, and make it easy for people to fill out an application, whether it’s via an online form or a downloadable PDF. Now that you have some idea of what you should do to make your business look good online, you may be asking “Where do I begin?” Ironically, you may want to start offline. Ask around to those you do business with. If they have an effective website, ask them who helped them to create it (and how they maintain it). Don’t restrict yourself to contractors, either. Ask your other partners, including your DSG representative (DSG has relationships with several online resources). It’s easier than you think, and now is a good time to get started. Stake out your space today and put your best foot forward on the web.
Talk The Talk
Here are some of the terms that you need to know to speak the language of the internet.
Web Hosting: A website is really just a computer program that others can access. This program is stored on a powerful computer called a server. This is called “hosting a website,” and it costs money, though it has become increasingly affordable in the last few years.
Web Browser: The software programs that people use to visit your website are called web browsers. Examples include Microsoft Explorer (replaced by “Edge” in Windows 10), Google Chrome and Apple Safari.
Domain Name: This is what a user types in to a browser to get to your site. For example, www.dakotasupplygroup.com is DSG’s domain name. Domain names can be “rented” through companies like Network Solutions and GoDaddy.
Navigation: These are the links (words or images) that you click on to change pages on your website. Navigation should be as easy to use as possible.