Episode 48: Website Strategy and Working with Digital Marketers for Your Business with Carol Lynn Rivera
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If thinking about your company's website makes your head explode (even just a little bit), you'll want to listen to this week's episode.
I talk with Carol Lynn Rivera, a digital marketer at Rahvalor Interactive and the co-host of the Web.Search.Social podcast, and she shares great information about how to think about a website for your yarn-related business.
This week's episode
In my interview with Carol Lynn, we talk about different ways to approach your website. Carol Lynn brings many years of experience working with other small businesses on their websites and digital marketing and answers questions like, "Do you need to have your website, or if it's alright to rely on a digital marketplace like Etsy or Ravelry?" and "Should you do your website yourself, or hire someone to do it for you?"
Spoiler alert: The answer to both questions is "It depends" (but it all sounds much more elegant when Carol Lynn explains why).
So, do you need your own website?
Carol Lynn recommends developing an ecommerce site for your yarn-related business only if it can be done well. If that is outside of your current capabilities or financial resources, tap into the ecommerce and marketing strength of a larger site like Etsy or Ravelry.
Even if you don't want, need, or can't manage ecommerce cabailities, what about having a website for other reasons?
Carol Lynn recommends thinking about what your website will do for your business. What are your goals for it and what do you want the site to do?
Once you have your strategy, you can decide whether it is a DIY project or something that needs additional resources. In general, a site with more complexity will require more resources. If you aren't already familiar with the technology, think about whether you have more time to invest in training yourself, or whether hiring out is the best appraoch.
If you take the DIY approach...
Carol Lynn recommends taking an inventory of other sites to start. Look at websites in other industries as well as some in the yarn industry and your specific niche(s). Examine what is being done wrong (hint: avoid those things) and what's being done well. Try not to copycat, but think about what is appealing and what makes you interested in browsing the site. Are there similar elements that you could incorporate into your own site?
Don't forget to start with the strategy and purpose for your website, but understand that a website will continually evolve. It can't (and won't) be "perfect" on your first try. Start where you are and then build towards your goals.
Carol Lynn also reminds you that your website isn't just a visual aid. The content is more important than the design (though pretty looking designs don't hurt). If that isn't something you are prepared to develop yourself, it can also be outsourced (or, you can work with a digital marketing company to develop a strategy that you can implement on your own).
There's a continuum between DIY and pay someone else do everything. Based on your budget, available time, experience, and comfort, choose the approach that makes the most sense for your business.
If you decide to hire someone...
Carol Lynn shares 5 important tips for finding the right company (or individual).
1) You should be able to communicate easily with the company before you contract with them. Ask a lot of questions so you can understand the company's approach to your site and their services. If you can only communicate via email, that's a red flag. You should be able to have a consultation over the phone or using Skype/Google Hangouts before making a decision. Consider whether your communication styles work well together.
2) The company should have an online presence that you can preview. If the company is in the digital marketing space, it should have an online presence including a website and active accounts on one or more social media platform. This allows the company to test out new approaches on itself, not on your business.
3) Get it in writing. Once you settle on a company, you should get a clear outline of the services they will provide and the costs involved in writing. Read through the information, ask questions about it, and don't sign anything until you have satisfactory answers. The document can be just as clear about what the company is not providing as about what it is providing.
4) The company should have insurance. Carol Lynn talked about the prevalence of "day trippers" in the industry - people who have limited expertise but offer digital marketing services. The presence of insurance indicates the company is serious about their business, and also protects you as the client from the negative impact of problems resulting from their work on your website or social marketing activities.
5) You should have access to your site and its analytics. Even if you plan to be completely hands off and delegate all of your website and social marketing activities to another company, you should have access to all the login details, analytics, and other critical information in case of emergency. This is also helpful if you decide to switch to another company in the future. If you need a horror story to drive the point home, listen to "Don't Hire a Web Developer Until You Read This," a fascinating episode of the Web.Search.Social podcast where Carol Lynn and her husband, Ralph, interview a business owner who lost access to his website, email, and more. It also includes a link to a helpful (and free) business continuity plan document.
You may also enjoy these additional resources
Carol Lynn has written several related articles that you may want to read.
How To Hire A Web Developer7 Things Your Web Developer Will Never Tell YouThe Lady In The Garage Can't Build Your Website
Dear Customer, This Is What You Should Pay To Hire A Marketing Company
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Have you worked with another company to build your website? What tips would you share with other yarnies? Let me know in the comments at http://creativeyarnentrepreneur.com/48 or in the Facebook group, Tweet me at @cyeshow, add me to your G+ circle and send me a note, or leave a message at 646-713-8973.
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