In today’s economy and changing work environment I believe that having an internet presence is essential for your business. The internet is one of the first places potential customers look when researching products or services and for some, it may be the only conduit available for information and purchases. For those reasons it is worth investing in an online presence for your business.

Whether you’re an established business owner or just getting started it may be difficult to know where to begin. As a graphic designer I know how business websites are created, what processes are involved and the amount of time it takes to create and maintain an online presence. To help you visualize the process for a new or small businesses, I have created the following chart:

The chart above was created for Micro and Small Businesses. Generally these businesses are owned or managed by one or two people. The business provides a limited amount of goods or services and may already have a steady clientele. If you have the time and/or you’re working with a very limited budget, I recommend the following:

  • If you don’t already have one, create an email account for your business.
  • Create and purchase a domain name*. The easier it is to remember the name, the better. Stay away from unique spellings, unless that is how you spell your company name, because you want people to be able to find you quickly. If you can, try to include your industry as part of your domain name i.e. deantriolodesign.
    *Note: you may be able to purchase your domain name from your hosting company.
  • Choose a hosting company and create a website on their platform. For micro, newly formed small businesses or when marketing resources are limited, I recommend creating a website on one of the Do-It-Yourself or DIY hosting platforms. DIY and WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) platforms are designed to make creating a website relatively easy and quick. The site themes and templates are created by professionals and help non-designers get their sites up and running. A few of the top DIY hosting sites available are Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, and WordPress, but there are many more. Make sure you upload quality product photos and information, as well as contact information, terms of service, privacy policy, return policy and shipping costs. Don’t forget to include links to your social media accounts after those are created. Please note that your website may not belong to you. If your business grows and you decide you want a stand-alone site, you may not be able to transfer your DIY website to another hosting platform.
  • If you are selling products, online services or have an E-commerce store, you may need to set up an online business account through PayPal or another payment service platform. These platforms make payments easier for your customers and make online sales accounting easier for you.
  • Create business accounts on two social media sites that are relevant to your product or service. Typically Facebook is choice number one. Depending upon your business, choose one other platform*. If possible, try to make your account user names similar to your domain name. Don’t forget to add the social media links to your website and add your website address to the social media sites. * Two social media accounts are recommended because someone is going to have to manage these sites and  each platform is different. Also when you’re just starting out or you are a sole proprietor, you are the one who is responsible for creating and managing all content and posts. If you need help or want to learn more about each platform, check out YouTube (which is also a social media platform option) for reviews and introductory How To videos.
  • Join a Business to Business (B2B) Networking Group. This can be an online group such as BNI (Business Networking International) or it can be your local Chamber of Commerce. Currently, most B2B networking groups meet online using platforms such as Zoom. If you have difficulty meeting new people or you naturally avoid engaging with groups, don’t let that stop you. Your industry or local networking group probably has a Facebook page and you can introduce yourself through direct message or Facebook post. Business to Business networking groups are usually very welcoming to new members. Be aware, however, that rules for membership vary among groups and some may have restrictions limiting the number of members per industry i.e. one real estate agent, one chiropractor, etc. This helps elevate referrals within the group and makes membership easier to manage.

If you own a small to medium business the DIY set up options will probably not be feasible for you. Most small to medium business owners need to hire a professional designer and outsource website maintenance as well as social media management. While I do not mean to imply that business owners are not capable of creating and managing their own websites and social media accounts, typically they simply don’t have the time.

Graphic design professionals can create and maintain your website, faster and easier. As a business owner, your ideas and opinions should be included in the design process, but designers by trade know more about layout, fonts, colors, platforms to use, and sites to avoid. The research is done for you and most small businesses require a more dynamic website than a standard drag and drop format. It’s not unlike servicing your own car, re-tiling your own bathroom or cutting your own hair. Sure you can do it, but will it be as appealing, dependable and accurate as a professional? Probably not.

A professional graphic designer can build a professional looking website, help clients with domain name and set up hosting services. They also know how to incorporate all the features you need to grow your business online, communicate with customers and maintain your social media connections. Like myself, designers may also provide website maintenance contracts, writing services, social media management and other marketing services. Creating and managing an online presence for your company or business is becoming essential to maintaining and growing your business. Your online presence adds additional requirements on your time and resources.

For new or micro businesses, costs for domain name and DIY hosted websites can be created for a modest amount. Business accounts on most social media platforms are free with optional fees for advertisement or to boost posts.
For small to medium businesses, owners may simply do not have the time to build their website. Hiring an experienced graphic designer will save time, money and create the professional appearance you want for your online presence.

Networking and professional groups, either online or in person, can help create a sense of community, provide valuable tips, referrals and relationship as your business grows.

Regardless of your business type or size, building, maintaining and managing an online presence takes work, time and resources, but can no longer be considered as an optional marketing choice.

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