Bill Gates once said, “If your business is not on the internet, then your business will be out of business.”

A professional website can make it easier for potential customers to trust, find and buy from your business, but how can you set it up for success? As business owners from Seasons 1, 2 and 3 of Deluxe’s Small Business Revolution — Main Street can attest, a website worth its salt takes time and effort to create.

Once it’s launched, however, that website can take your business to new heights. Let’s look at the seven tactics these entrepreneurs used to create and improve their websites — and achieve success.

1. Tell your story

Your website should tell the story of your business. A good story helps you stand out from the competition, stick in people’s minds and get them talking about you to others.

Challenge: Matt Haines, the owner of Filament Tattoo in Wabash, Indiana, who was featured in the first season “Main Street,” needed to bring in more customers to survive his slow seasons.

Solution: The Deluxe team helped Haines build a professional website that would promote his tattoo parlor to people in and beyond Wabash. To draw people from far and wide to his small-town shop, the website would have to hook their interest with a unique story. As a pastor-turned-tattoo artist, Haines had a compelling story to tell!

To tell that story, showcase his brand’s personality and make a lasting impression on visitors, Deluxe added a video to the Filament website. In the video, Haines talks about his time pastoring for the church, how he decided to make a bigger impact on the community as a tattoo artist, the story behind the business’s name and more.

2. Cultivate trust

Adding bios along with photos of your staff is a great way to build trust, even before customers visit your business.

Challenge: People are more likely to do business with someone they know, trust and like, especially if that someone is wielding a tattoo machine. On top of that, people want to know that the tattoo artist has the skills to create the type of design they’re looking for. How could Filament Tattoo give people a sense of the artists and their expertise before visiting the shop?

Solution: With the help of Deluxe, Haines added staff bios that not only showed the artists’ personalities but also showcased their work. For example, tattoo artist Roger’s bio contained a mini gallery that featured his work, fun facts that revealed his personality, information about his extensive experience as an artist and a quote about why he loves his job.

3. Don’t keep visitors guessing 

Don’t skimp on this vital information. Online visitors will leave your website (what’s called “bouncing”) if the site doesn’t address the questions they have about your business and what you’re offering.

Challenge: Jose Tilapa, the owner of Keystone Boxing & MMA Gym, a Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania, business featured on Season 2 of “Main Street,” needed to double its membership to stay in the game. But he soon discovered that his unfinished, underutilized website was causing some serious blows to his business.

Solution: To avoid a business TKO, Tilapa worked with the Deluxe team to create an information-rich website that addressed online visitors’ questions about the classes offered, the business’s mission, pricing and the like.

Tilapa also included an FAQ section to answer customers’ more specific questions, such as:

  • Do I need my own gloves or any other gear before coming to my first class?
  • Is boxing safe? Would I get hit in class by someone else?
  • Are all fitness levels welcome?
  • Do I have to commit to a yearly contract?

By addressing prospective clients’ concerns and questions up front, these updates helped bring attention to Tilapa’s brand, sparking online and in-person visits. Having a website that packs a punch would help him continue to fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee — and keep his business going strong.

Keystone Boxing’s homepage before the redesign:

Keystone Boxing’s homepage after the transformation:

4. Make it mobile-friendly

Google says 61 percent of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40 percent visit a competitor’s site instead. That’s why having a mobile-friendly website is so important for your business.

Challenge: Before implementing the new website, Tilapa had to communicate class times via phone calls and texts with members because the class schedule page was difficult to access on mobile devices.

Solution: Tilapa worked with the Deluxe team to set up a new, mobile-friendly class schedule page that integrated industry-leading scheduling software. Now visitors can review class schedules and sign up for classes online right from their mobile phones.

5. Visual appeal is vital 

Professional photos not only add eye relief and visual appeal to your website, but they also make it memorable.

Challenge: Merry Lovett and her son, Brad Chavours, owners of Lovett’s Soul Food, an Alton, Illinois, business featured on Season 3 of “Main Street,” needed to attract new dine-in customers in order to increase overall sales. How could they pique people’s interest, and how could they set their website apart from the competition?

Solution: The Deluxe team worked with Merry and Brad to create a website with authentic photos that would boost awareness around the restaurant’s distinctive, authentic southern menu. In particular, the menu page features mouthwatering images of everything from Lovett’s famous snoots to their fried Kool-aid to give visitors a taste of the restaurant before they step inside.

In addition to adding photos and descriptions of the food, the Deluxe team showed online visitors Lovett’s secret ingredients: Each dish is filled with flavor and love. The new website’s homepage is Lovett’s chance to make an impression and capture attention. The Deluxe team put an image of love right at the top to give visitors a taste of the warm, engaging environment they’d experience in person at the eatery:

6. Harness the power of positive reviews

You want people who land on your website to feel good about your business and the products and services you have to offer. Positive customer testimonials give people the confidence that they’re in the very best place for the very best product.

Challenge: Lovett and Chavours had to get more diners through the door, but how would they appeal to people who weren’t familiar with their restaurant or with soul food?

Solution: The Deluxe team showed the restaurateurs how to use customer testimonials and reviews to make a positive first impression on website visitors — and entice them to come in for a meal. To spread the love and get people talking about the business, Lovett’s dedicated a whole page to this positive feedback.

7. Engaging content is a must

When people visit your website, how can you make them stick around and want to return? Interesting, engaging content is key.

Challenge: Mark McMurray, owner of Bluff City Outdoors, an Alton, Illinois, business featured on Season 3 of “Main Street,” had an e-commerce site, but it wasn’t the place for detailed, product descriptions, news about the shop and the like. Without content, how could McMurray engage people hook, link and sinker?

Solution: The Deluxe team worked with McMurray to create a new website rich with content — including local fishing tips, how to choose the right hooks, how to book a guide and more — to reel in customers.

Put these tips to work for you

Follow these best practices, and you’ll be on your way to a winning website design. As you consider how your website will look and function, keep these pointers in mind.

  • Make your “above the fold” content count. To attract visitors’ attention, make sure you have attention-grabbing headlines, content and imagery front and center — above the fold. Anything that isn’t visible immediately and requires scrolling is considered below the fold. Of course, everything requires scrolling on a smartphone or tablet, so be sure what they see first catches their eye and piques their interest.
  • Simplify navigation. Once people are on your website, you want it to be easy for them to get to where they want to go. Organize and label information accordingly to make it easy to navigate your site.
  • Build trust with social proof. Social proof is the idea that consumers will adapt their behavior based on what others are doing. Seeing a restaurant with a line out the door makes you want to check it out, right? Customer testimonials are one of the strongest forms of social proof.
  • Make your call to action (CTA) clear. A call to action is an image or line of text that compels the online visitor to take a desired action. Be sure your CTAs are clear, concise and effective.
  • Make it easy for people to reach you. Add your phone number, email address, mailing address, a Google map, and other contact information to the footer of your website pages.
  • Avoid generic stock photos. You want your website to be visually appealing, but do you really want that stock photography model with the fake smile selling your business? Use real photos with real employees or customers, doing real actions.
  • Don’t go it alone. Building a professional website takes time. If you’re already stretched too thin, you can always enlist the help of a web design service.

Your business’s website is the most important marketing tool you have, so make it successful. By following the featured tips and best practices, you’ll be well on your way to creating a website worth its weight in gold.

Stay tuned for Small Business Revolution – Main Street Season 4, to learn how the owners of a coffee shop, yoga studio, Mexican market, and climbing center used their websites to grow their businesses.

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