Friday, April 13, 2007

Web Site Advice for Small Companies (thanks to Mark Cahill)

A week or so ago, Mark Cahill over at Vario Creative, had a post listing tips for making your company's web site active and engaging.

The list was thorough and thoughtful, but, as someone who works for a number of small companies, it gave me heart palpitations.

"My companies" tend to be understaffed when it comes to marketing. Sure, we all readily acknowledge that our web sites are important, but it seems enough of an effort to refresh the content every few months. If we pay much attention to more regular updating, we're violating Mark's first point. "Press releases don't take the place of real website updates." How come? No fair! Wah, wah, wah....

Naturally, I left a "this is all well and good" comment, asking for more practical advice for the little guys who aren't hip deep in resources to throw at their web sites when all of their efforts going into building-supporting-selling the product.

Well, a day or two later Mark was back with a response that got into the pragmatics of keeping your web site alive.

Here's a quick look at the highlights (these are Mark's words, pared down):

  • Regular content updates on the site (besides press release) can be as simple as adding a quote from a customer, updating a list of new customers, or even posting information on your most frequent customer support request.
  • Blogging is cheap...you can make a decent impact by blogging twice a week 
  • Wikipedias
  • Participating in online communities  
  • Automate the rotation of your products on the homepage
  • Sponsoring niche communities is dirt cheap

Frankly, the list remains "daunting", but I have already started putting together recommendations for my small companies to put a subset of Mark's suggestions into action.

Even a company with very limited resources can take step one and post customer wins and a regular Q&A from the support data base.

Blogging, even twice a week, is a pretty big commitment, but if you can get someone to fall in love with the idea (and having a sounding board)...

Automated rotation of products is kinda hard if you only have one product. Sponsoring a niche community might be difficult when you're just starting out and don't have much traction with customers yet, but I'll think about it. (Hmmmm, maybe we could get providers of services in adjacent spaces to contribute....)

The two suggestions that I particularly like are the ones about Wikipedia and the participation in online communities. One reason I like these is that both seem like things that you can do one-shot (or occasional shot). Yes, I realize that approaching this with a one-shot mentally isn't going to work any better than thinking that your annual web-site update is sufficient. But if you start out thinking relatively small, it might be easier to get someone in the company to volunteer for duty.

Anyway, go check out Vario on this topic - there's a lot of merit in what Mark Cahill has to say.

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I want to say thanks to Mark for responding so thoughtfully and quickly to my comment.

1 comment:

Mark Cahill said...

Thanks!

Making things work on the web for small business is never a one size fits all proposition, as you correctly allude. As in so many things, small businesses have to make compromises and try to target the things that will provide the most benefit with the least amount of work.