SBF: How To Promote Your Small Business Online When Your Website Sucks

Ok, so you’ve decided to start using the Internet to promote your business more actively and most people you talk to who know about the web tell you the same thing … you need to redesign your website. The problem for many small businesses is that getting to the point when you actually have the budget or manage to get the right help to do it may take some time.

In the short term, this leaves you with an interesting challenge that there just isn’t much advice for – the moment when you realize that you still need to promote your business despite having a website that you hate and which you know is less than ideal. Can it really be possible to use the Internet effectively for marketing without a good website?  Yes, definitely.  Here are a few ideas on how to do just that.

  1. Announce a non-existent redesign. The first thing you need to do with a subpar website is to give customers the impression you are working to improve it (which hopefully you are). The only thing worse than a bad website is one that seems like it will be bad forever. So put a note on your homepage in some way sharing that your redesign is “coming soon.” If you think about it, this is exactly what retail destinations do when they hang those signs saying “please pardon our progress.” Progress takes time, but the first important lesson is that your customers need to know that it is coming … even if you have no idea when. Just by putting that sign up, you may also find that it helps motivate you to get that redesign done sooner.
  2. Create other homepages. The nice thing about the web today is that you can get up and running on a host of other sites to create a branded presence for your business in less than an hour. What this means is that your website doesn’t need to be the only place that you share information about your business.  Need a page telling people where you are located? Populate that information into Google Maps and use that link. Want to tell people about your business and share some images? Create a Facebook fan page for your business. There are lots of sites out there where you can share information about your business without needing to just point people to your site.
  3. Fix your homepage first. The homepage of your site is the gateway to your business and the first impression someone is likely to have. While a full redesign may be some time away, getting some help to recreate your homepage can be a good investment to start people with a positive experience of your site and then potentially drive them to other homepages as mentioned in #3.
  4. Use more direct communications. When you can’t rely on your website to reach your customers, you may want to consider a more direct model. Email marketing certainly fits into this category – but starting a Twitter account and sharing updates directly can also be a way of offering a more consistent stream of content or information without relying on your website to do it.
  5. Leverage your other materials. I have seen more than a few small businesses struggle to create a quality website while at the VERY SAME TIME they have an expanse of good printed materials such as brochures and other collateral they use in the real world to promote their business. If you have these kinds of materials, work with someone (or buy a relatively inexpensive scanner yourself) to digitize some of the best of your content. Then you can upload to your site or post it online in another location to make it available for customers and prospective customers.

NOTE: This post is part of Small Business Friday (SBF) – a weekly feature to share marketing ideas for small businesses and was originally published on the Amex Open Forum site.

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