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Getting an online presence

Having a digital presence — a website and matching email address — makes your business look more professional and means it can always be found.

Here’s how to get online — and avoid common mistakes.

A website can be your shop window, retail outlet, information centre and marketing tool. It’s available 24 hours a day to customers around the world. No business, no matter how small, can afford to be without a digital presence.

Getting your own domain name — your unique online address — can also give you matching email addresses. Studies show customers trust emails that match the business name over those with generic email addresses, eg sales@smithsplumbing.co.nz instead of sales.smithsplumbing@gmail.com.

Think about why you want a website. To keep costs down, your site should only do what you need it to. Ask yourself if your business is:

  • local or national
  • national or international
  • in retail or a service provider.

Also, think about the people you’re selling to. Ask yourself:

  • Who are my ideal customers?
  • What will customers want from my website — making contact, finding out more about products or services, buying something?

The answers will help you work out what you want your website for, including:

  • marketing your products or services
  • generating sales leads
  • selling products or services
  • telling people outside your area or country about you and your business.

Get a domain name

The first thing you’ll need is a domain name — a unique online address — before you can have your own website and branded email addresses. Ideally, this will be your business name or a keyword related to your business.

To get a domain name:

  1. Find a “.nz” name — use our ONECheck tool (external link) to see if one that matches your business name is available.
  2. If your business wants to operate overseas or attract overseas customers, think about a domain name ending in .com or other country code, eg com.au or co.uk.

If you haven’t done so already, now is a good time to think about your company’s brand and business name.

Is your name available?

Check if anyone else has registered your intended business name, domain name and trade mark in one search using our ONECheck tool.

BeautyOfEmail

Case study

Beauty of email

For years Debbie has used the same email address for home and for her beauty products company Organic Beauty — debs21@hotmail.com. When her business takes off, Debbie realises she needs more professional-looking email addresses for work.

So she registers the domain name organicbeauty.co.nz, and sets up separate email addresses for sales (sales@organicbeauty.co.nz), admin and invoicing (accounts@organicbeauty.co.nz), and one for each staff member.

She sets up a website at organicbeauty.co.nz for local sales and also registers the domain name organicbeautynz.com to sell products around the world at a later date.

Developing your website

Your first website doesn’t need to be expensive. For a small business, a single page that is simple, clear and attractive might do to start with. Several online services offer free and low-cost templates ideal for a site with just a few pages of information and images.

As your business grows, you’ll want your website to grow with it. When it’s time to build a new site, eg one that can take orders or requests for quotes, get a professional developer and designer involved. Before they start work, be clear about what you need the site to do and how much you can spend.

Whatever the size of your site, there are rules it pays to follow. Your customers and search engines will thank you for it.

  • Keep all information up to date.
  • Add new content regularly to keep the site fresh — search engines like Google rank sites that do this better.
  • Make content useful — not everything should be an advertisement for your business.
  • Use good quality images of what you do and sell — avoid generic stock photos.
  • Keep words to a minimum and use them wisely — it may be worth paying a professional writer.

 

 
Put important information — like contact details for your business — in an obvious place.

Put important information — like contact details for your business — in an obvious place.

If your business offers after-hours services, eg for plumbing emergencies or IT support, include a call-out number on your homepage.

Social media can be a great way for small businesses to talk to customers. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram help you reach a vast potential audience, often more intimately than through your website. No wonder companies big and small use it to build their brand.

Social media can help you:

  • contact customers quickly with important information, eg competitions, offers, product recalls
  • get instant customer feedback
  • quickly grow customer numbers
  • sell through a business account, eg on Facebook.

Plan how you want to use your social media account, eg to offer daily specials or to encourage people to visit your website. Also think about how much time you or an employee can give to it, eg once a day or week.

Think about the tone of voice for your social media posts, eg a law firm may use a more serious tone than a party planning company.

Over-using social media can be seen as invasive, eg posting too many company updates or information customers can live without.

It’s also worth remembering everyone sees feedback posted by your customers — good and bad. Also, you may have obligations if you’re collecting information about customers and storing it digitally.

Mobile-friendly websites rank higher in search results.

Mobile-friendly websites rank higher in search results.

Design your website from the outset with both mobile and desktop users in mind. Think about what they will do on your site, eg quick visits to find contact details or longer sessions to compare products.

Tips for being found online

Customers must be able to find you easily online — if they can’t, your competitor is just a click away.

  • Check your stats: Google Analytics (external link) is a tool to help you understand how people use your website, which pages are most read, and who reads them. It’s easy to use and free.
  • Review and tweak: Ask customers what they want from your website — and what they like and don’t like. Be prepared to change what’s not going down well.
  • Promote your website: Look for opportunities to get your domain name in front of customers. You can promote your business with your website, address, and opening hours with Google’s Places for business service (external link) .

Keeping track of key metrics

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