Trini business owners have to make a choice between investing in their website or ‘expensing’ it to weather this Trinidad & Tobago recession. From the looks of it, it looks like it’s going to be a long one and things are probably going to get worse, much worse, before they get better.
I reported in early January 2016 that business owners were bright eyed and bushy tailed at the start of the new year. For the first time in my web designing history did I get so many calls from old clients, many who never touched their sites after the initial launch, eager to update and promote.
Come the second quarter and the reality that guava season is here to stay, out went the optimism through the window and into the river like an old stove.
But should we throw our hands up in the air and give up without a fight? It depends on your mindset. Do you fight only the fights you can win or do you fight the fights that needs fighting?
Your Website: The fight that needs fighting
Notwithstanding the fact that it’s in my self interest to keep my website business in business, it is with sincere objectivity that I make the case that this is a fight that needs fighting. There are several reasons.
1. Your competitors may think so to
If you’re going to roll over and die so be it. Don’t expect that your competitors will too as they might be hoping you take that stance. And I don’t mean die, no business owner in Trinidad & Tobago in their right mind is going to sit back and let their business go belly up, but again, your mindset will determine how much you’re willing to fight.
Business minded business owners don’t wait for an advantage from their competition’s inaction because they take a proactive approach by taking care of their business. They weather the storm and make the best of it, looking for any advantage they can get. Your inaction or halfhearted effort will be a nice bonus.
2. A website is a fundamental business tool, not a luxury
The road is rough ahead and you still have a heavy load to carry. If your business was a van then your website can be either the engine or a wheel. If you want to nitpick then then be my guest— engine, transmission, front wheel (left or right), back wheel (left or right), spare, battery, radiator, jack, wheel spanner or cigarette lighter. Some people like myself don’t use the cigarette lighter, but I view my website as the engine…MINDSET.
‘Standard as a stapler’ is what I call it, no ifs ands or buts, you dispense with your website and people die, it’s just that simple. It’s no longer cool to have a website, it’s an absolute necessity. If you don’t agree with me then you need to have your head examined. I mean it, go get your head examined, stat!
Your Website: The fight you can win
Yes you CAN win and I’ll tell you how. You don’t need fancy bells and whistles, dancing monkeys and the entire kitchen sink of the latest website fads. Your website can’t ‘fool with cool’ because oohs and aahs over fancy animations and stunning graphics don’t convert customers— CONTENT STRATEGY converts customers.
1. Win with a professional looking website
A solid website that looks professional is the first impression a visitor uses to size up your company and inspire confidence. The good news is that modern website templates and a good content management system gives you a lot of that out of the box. But a good look and feel can only get you so far and it does get your visitor’s foot into your door which is just what you need.
Many web designers in Trinidad & Tobago can indeed give you that, i.e. the technical elements of website design, such as hooking you up with domain and hosting, installing a content management system like WordPress or others, installing a template and configuring menu, homepage, inner pages, sliders etc.
But there is a reason why you choose to go to a particular barber, hairdresser, mechanic, even grocery where you all get the same things. For me, I do it better than all of them, and one of the main things in this technical aspect is choosing the right template for the look and feel that suits your company image and I’ve got that art down to a science.
2. Win with solid CONTENT STRATEGY
You’ve heard about putting lipstick on a pig, or you can’t make a purse out of a sow’s ear, both used as analogies for all bark and no bite, all sizzle and no steak, i.e. other analogies (enough with the metaphors right!).
But you get my drift? A solid content strategy brings the other foot with the rest of the body in, else they head for the hills or worse, your competitor.
CONTENT that wins
You look at local websites and many don’t speak to you. Good content SPEAKS, if it doesn’t, it’s just static information. True, the information may be helpful to your visitor but may not be compelling. Local websites are fortunate to have little competition so they get away with standard or sub-standard design, you know— the “in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king” effect. Among other things, what constitutes good content are:
- Featuring your selling points and strengths
- Site text, aka 'copy'; the words and tone you use to describe yourself, what you do/did/will do/dee do or go do
- Use of images- for illustrative, sliders, icons... hello USE YOUR OWN!
- Layout tools- boxes, lists, buttons etc., i.e creative use of content display
- Calls to action- compelling your visitor to act
- Configuring site to get found- SEO
STRATEGY that wins
Because you need to have a plan to achieve your goals. You need to set your goals so you can craft a plan to achieve them. Obviously your main goal is more paying customers, but like everything else there are many paths, and you don’t just want a one-off sale from a new customer, you want to keep that customer coming back. And that’s one of my peeves about Trini businesses, that they don’t see anything beyond the sale, and I’ll give you a personal example.
Early this year I was in the market for PVC ceiling for my home office which was part of a renovation that started out to give my two kids better rooms which led into a complete renovation of our entire living space. Anyway, my office was first because I never had one. Believe it or not, I was working all this time out of a desk in a corner and since the area was going to be under construction, I was forced to move.
For PVC ceilings I went to a big name in Marabella, and without naming the actual name all I’ll say is that it rhymes with ‘Bionare’, and it was my first time because I never bought PVC ceilings before. The reality of my peeve came when I went downstairs to collect my panels where I got absolutely no help except where a guy just took them out and drop them on the floor. Everything else I had to do myself, together with my wife, while the endless waste of human beings stood idly by.
The result of this single unpleasant experience is that now I have to buy 4 times as much material for the rest of the renovation, but guess who I’m not buying from? Additionally, I have nothing good to say about this company because there is nothing good to say, so if anyone asks me, I’ll say stay the hell away from ‘Bionare’, an absolute stinker of a company. Companies like these are only big for a while.
Back to my point, it’s more than a customer that you keep, who keeps buying. There is the sheer power of a referral and a good review because there are many one-off sales by nature and this is a perfect example.
Good strategy is having a plan and working the plan, i.e. not working vikey vike à la Trini.
- Updating and optimizing your website content with a sense of purpose
- Crafting a good digital marketing plan around your website
- Using other support tools like social media for customer engagement
- Spending some dollars on online advertising, like Facebook ads
- Preparing yourself for when the economy turns the corner
Your Website: How much should you spend?
It’s hard to throw money behind a website in a down economy when there’s nothing remotely shining in the horizon, and should you still do it? Do this self test: On a scale of one to ten how much do you automatically go online to find what you need? There’s your answer!
If you have a website
If you have a website already then you already have a fighting chance. Your website will need a good spring cleaning to get it in ship shape. If it’s a WordPress site then I can help you. If not, then no dice as I only work with WordPress.
I would suggest a facelift via a new template and a re-evaluation and re-positioning of the site content with good inbound marketing techniques and should cost you between $3,000 – $5,000 TTD
If you don't have a website
Then you better get one fast and for the very reasons I outlined above to give your business a fighting chance. Money is tight I know and you’re stuck with the expense/investment dilemma. Believe me, in the hands of a lesser web designer it’s going to be an expense.
This year companies have been gravitating towards my middle plan, the Corporate Site which is understandable. This plan costs $8,500 TTD so a 50% deposit is something they can handle. However, I can’t say I’ve have seen any improvement on completion times.
Your Facebook Page: Can it replace a website for now?
That’s a good question. Social media and websites are different tools for different purposes but I’ve seen Facebook Pages do a heck of a job still, and again my own experience is a good example. Still on my renovation project, I was looking for fancy front doors so my wife went looking online but there were mostly Facebook pages more than websites and the websites were poor. The Facebook pages did an excellent job though as we were able to browse and see many pictures and send messages with quick responses.
The door we actually bought was from a business in San Fernando and got a great price as there was a promotion on it. We had never bought from that company before but they had good customer service. What again is the result of a good experience? When we needed countertops for our kitchen we went to them again, this time at their Changuanas branch, same good customer service. This time I’ll mention the name of the company; Tile King Factory Outlet.
The answer can’t be that a Facebook page can replace a website but if you do it right, and depending on the nature of your business, it can be used to bring in customers. I’m all for exhausting the NO COST tools of advertising. Just bear in mind:
- Social Media is a complement not a substitute for a website
- Organic reach is difficult so your great page may not be seen
- It's a plus if you're reasonably known so people look for you
- If your business is now getting into the digital space then you'll have to spend $
In the case of Tile King, we were looking for them as we knew of them, i.e. they were among a few companies that stood out as the first to look at, hence the reason why they were able to convert with just their Facebook page. Lesser known businesses won’t be found so easily so they’ll have use Facebook ads.
Facebook Page alone vs Website + Facebook Page
What do you think? Again, a Facebook page alone can do a stellar job by itself. If that will be enough for you then that’s your call. A Facebook page plus website in concert, and I stress IN CONCERT is an undeniable SYNERGY you can’t ignore.
It’s also a matter of your overall goal. A Facebook/website combo will serve you well in the long term when the economy improves, so it depends on how far you want to look with your strategy.
The recession may last long but it won’t last forever. Avoid the future ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ and ‘if ah did only know’ syndrome by putting your head down and taking charge of your business. It’s bad, but not Venezuela bad yet (knock wood!), we still have plenty blessings to count.
You also have me, and this piece is not to promote me as the best guy to help you (because you already knew that!); it’s to encourage you to stay the course and let this awesome business tool called a website really do what I know it can do for you, you just have to believe in it can.