My website needs a professional touch. I didn't want to spend the money but I think doing it myself has not gotten me where I should be. Here's my question - Network Solutions hosts my website and for $1,224 for one year, they will do all the editing, building, SEO work, etc. I am supposed to have access to support throughout the year. After the one year, no further commitment. Can I please have all comments on this, I am a much better furniture builder than tech developer. Thanks
Your website is part of an overall marketing strategy. A decent website might be a few thousand dollars. But that doesn't get you anywhere. You need a full blown internet marketing campaign where you spend hundreds, if not thousands every month, to get leads. Then you need to decide if you want to get those leads through your own website, or would it be better to make a facebook page and put your money into FB advertising to target certain geographic areas.
Then take a step back and ask yourself if you could better spend your marketing dollars elsewhere. Instead of marketing to the end customer through your website or FB, you take that money and market to interior designers and GC's.
Sorry to make it so convoluted, but the basic idea is that a website in and of itself gets you nowhere. Focus on a marketing strategy, think it through, and then implement.
As a small shop I did my own, I used Weebly by Google, Wix is another one. did not think much of it as we got plenty of calls and being a google product we were propagated very well in search. Now that we are a bit larger it still works well, I can change page, text, Photos etc on the quick.
I do pay the pro fee and not the free version but it is not but a couple of hundred a year or less
I'm a small shop too. And went the DIY path on website.
I agree that a website is a part of an overall marketing plan. I disagree that a website brings you nothing - unless it is lacking the type of content (answers, questions, examples) that your target market is searching for. And they are searching.
My marketing expense last year was $387 - web hosting and one ad in a local charity publication.
If I was going to give a new woodworker some rules to live by it would include these four things:
1) Get proficient at designing in Sketchup.
You will make more money if you do this.
2) Learn how to take a decent picture and invest in a modicum of equipment to make this happen. Pictures are important to customers.
3) Learn how to create or at least manage your own website. If you outsource this part of your company it will never represent current thinking.
4) Get a scissor lift work bench.
The first three tools represent an investment in yourself. This investment has everything to do with how you present your ideas to the people who give you money. The better presentation you do at this end the more money they will give you.
Every dollar you are ever going to earn comes to you on the day you make that sale. Every other activity in your company just steals those dollars from your pocket.
I would go with the scissorlift early on because life is already hard enough.
I would like to weigh in on the benefits of going with Network Solutions. I have been a customer of theirs for maybe twenty years or so.
The real name for this company is Web.Com. I think the reason they are still marketing under the banner of Network Solutions is that company had a great reputation. The organization that runs it now is quite a bit different than what it used to be.
One of the things you will become aware of is just how often they email you. Sometimes the mail is important but mostly it's just marketing. This would be okay except that it takes a bit of energy to make sure what you are receiving is important to know or not.
When you log onto their site to investigate you will be confronted with home page that has a bazillion buttons that you need to stare at. The buttons ricochet you around the site like a pinball machine. Each page has it's own pile of buttons. What you have to be careful about is that some of these buttons sign you up for services you weren't aware of.
They will constantly offer to sign you up for auto renewal. Buried in the print is that they are allowed to renew your site hosting at any time within 90 days of expiration. They reserve the right to sign you up for any length of term they want (shorter terms cost more than longer terms) and they can do this for whatever rate they want.
Essentially by signing up for auto-renewal you commit yourself to a lot of unknown expenses. By the time you discover them your credit card has already been dinged for a year's worth of hosting at a dollar amount you did not agree to.
On the plus side it is a fairly simple affair to opt out of auto renewal. They will send you plenty of notices to remind you that your renewal is coming due so remembering to take care of this is not complicated.
They are also very good on the phone.
The wait times for service are very short and the people you talk with are knowledgable and patient. They will stay with you until the problem is solved.
NS hosts five websites for me for $180. I build and manage the sites myself. I can't believe they will build you a site specific to your needs and host it for $100 a month. It is more likely they will create your site out of a template.
There are a lot of template services available on line that you could probably master on a Sunday. This is not exactly rocket surgery.
What I would do is take the time to develop something yourself over a weekend or two then take the $1000 you save and buy a camera. Your work is really really high quality. The pictures on your website are not.
Get yourself a Canon 70D & lens on Ebay for $600 & buy a couple of speedlites. Bounce the lights off the ceiling or ricochet them off an umbrella. Also not rocket surgery.
First let me address the Do It Yourself of anything. When you are a business owner, you have hundreds of things that you can do yourself. The problem is none of those add value to you in the form of revenue to your business. When you are working on your website your not generating revenue. The second thing is most of the time we are not proficient at it and it takes us 2x the time it would to have pro do it. Theres a reason Dr.s and lawyers dont build their own cabinets. So the savings isn't really a savings.
The second part is the marketing. There is much more to Web design than a few pictures on the page. If you don't rank in the top 3 or 4 pages on Google, it will never be seen. (When was the last time you clicked past page 1?) Once again if your putting in the time and effort to design and manage your page to get and keep it there, you probably shouldn't be building cabinets or furniture.
My best source for new business is my website and thats where I spend the most $ in my advertising budget.
Another example is that I refularly sell hundreds of thousands of dollars of business to people who see my vehicles. Each one has about $3k worth of signage on them and you don't miss them when they are at your neighbors house. I have had other business owners tell me "yeah, I'm small, I can't afford to do that "
Pay somebody else to do it and go build something that you can get paid for.
Yes, I have done some of my own work. Im not a tech guy, and dont pretend to be one. Im a business owner and do whats most valuable for my time, i can spend 8 hours working on a website, or I can go on 3 sales appts, sell 2 of them and generate $7320 of revenue for my business and pay a web guy for a few hours of his time to do a better job than I can.
Back when you were dabbling in website development the steps it took to build a website were probably very complicated. You had to learn HTML & CSS and basically have a computer science degree to pull this off. I would never forget that experience either.
Today there are a dozen template driven sites that you can have up and running in under an hour. The amount of flexibility t his affords to a smaller shop is tremendous.
Websites aren't necessarily all about SEO. Not everybody competes with national based franchise operations. These guys just need a way to post a picture real quick to show a customer how important their job is.
The customer in turn wants to share their new project to their world of friends. A website does this much better than jpegs in an email and allows those customers to become apostles for your own company. If you send the customer a link to their job while they are at work that link will be shared and others will ask what you are like to work with.
Contrast that nimbleness with what it would take (and cost) to get your website guy to understand what changes yo want made and actually prioritize them to happen.
Being in control of your own message puts you in control of your own message. There is a lot to be said for that.
Derek explained very well why it's just not worth the time for the DIY website. It's part of an overall marketing effort. I understand cabmaker's point that the template sites are pretty easy and that all you need is good pictures. Very true. But what about SEO? What about PPC campaigns?
The vast majority of small shop owners are strapped for time. Sure, we could all layup our own panels, build our own doors and drawers, etc. But there's a good reason most people choose not to.
If all you need is an online photo gallery to direct people to, then it probably makes sense for a DIY website. But if you're hoping to generate leads from a website, DIY is a poor choice.
I don't know much about the closet industry. I don't know anything at all about national marketing campaigns or how to make my website pop up first in an SEO search. I am, however, a Subject Matter Expert on the retail end user for kitchen cabinets.
I know everything there is to know about this demographic. This is a group of people who stay up till midnite in their pajamas pouring through Pinterest. (FWIW: This same group could care less about whether or not their drawers were made with dovetails.)
This group of people will poll absolutely everybody and anybody about ideas for their remodel. They'll ask the mailman what he thinks. When the project is in full swing this is all they can think or talk about. For them the most important story is "You should have seen it before!"
If you have skills with a camera and are nimble with a website you can give them the tools they need to humblebrag to all their friends and coworkers. You can turn them into an apostle.
If you send them a JPEG on the weekend they will open it and get back to you. If you link them to a URL during working hours they will share this URL with everybody in the office. Try making that happen with your outsourced IT Department.
There is a reason most cabinet maker websites are so dowdy. Dealing with the website guy is a painful and expensive process. Just trying to find him six months later when you need an update can be a struggle. Trying to get him to prioritize your project on the schedule you want it to happen is just about impossible.
Today's world lives & dies on SnapChat.
If you want to stay relevant to this customer base you need to drink at the same watering holes they drink from.
You could also just say "This is complicated. I better outsource this."
I am with cabmaker, My website at this point is nothing more than a way to find my address and email as we are all custom spec commercial, they find me with google and the AWI. BUT ! when we did kitchens it was a way to have a customer looking at photos while we were on the phone, these days it is all digital direct and social media,, cabmaker i found your view spot on, the kitchen world is not cookie cutter,, some try yet it is still very personal.
Sure, DIY web development means you spend your time vs your money. Your time can be at off hours - a few hours a night a few days a week. After you get familiar with the tools, your productivity increases. With that comes a sense of steering your web content into the themes, issues, and interests resonant with your target audience.
Basic SEO is not rocket science. Some great guides exist to keep you off the rocks. As you learn more, you can edit your site to meet those new insights.
Optimized, integrated, active websites with meaningful content for their intended users do generate leads. Page 1 on Google isn't what it used to be. Now, it is more like Page 1 for who, where, searching for what in general and in specific terms. Your blog article showing and explaining "How much does it cost to get a custom hall table built in Pennsville, NJ" will probably slay it (show an example, explain the process (tell the story), detail the price, paste in a testimonial from the client.) Then share the article on social media. Put it on your Google My Business profile.
You can write up and publish an interesting project story in a Saturday afternoon.
Your task is to get people to find you, know you (information), trust you (authority), and then reach out to you (engagement). Get lots of them on your site. Be helpful, show stuff relevant to your audience, tell stories. The 'find you' will come.
BTW, if you are serving a local area and DON'T have a fully fleshed out GMB profile - do that before anything else. Get on the map.
"Your task is to get people to find you, know you (information), trust you (authority), and then reach out to you (engagement). Get lots of them on your site. Be helpful, show stuff relevant to your audience, tell stories. The 'find you' will come."
It should read (edit in CAPS):
"Your task is to get people to find you, know you (information), trust you (authority), and then reach out to you (engagement). PEOPLE SEARCH WITH WORDS. Get lots of them on your site. Be helpful, show stuff relevant to your audience, tell stories. The 'find you' will come."
Believe it or not, industries do have "Subject Matter Experts". I would guess that you are one with respect to different types of storage systems for people's homes. I am an SME for the retail kitchen industry.
I am not sure which part of what I wrote you consider to be a diatribe or manifesto.
The OP asked a question about hiring Network Solutions to develop and manage his website. I have had five websites hosted on that site for twenty years. I gave him a very thorough description of what I find it to be like to work with that company.
My guess is that he found the information to be useful.
Maybe I veered off course a bit about recommending people learn to make presentations in Sketchup. We were able to start raising our prices when customers could better connect emotionally with the project. I think that is solid advice. (Sketchup drawings also paste easily into websites and can help illustrate a point or help leverage a modest photography budget.)
I told him also to learn to take a decent picture. Hiring a professional to do this is great if you can drag one around with you to document the BEFORE shot. As I pointed out in my manifesto the "YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN IT BEFORE!" part is a significant component of the customer's war story. This is the part they tell their friends.
Photography helps customer's bond with you emotionally. This personal connection is the most important driver customer referrals. I regularly send work-in-progress pictures to my customers. because they really like to see the work.
They are the same as postcards. They are little love notes to show you care about their work.
Presenting this photography on URLs allows you to leverage this photography expense to a wider audience. (I think this is the goal of SEO)
I don't think I was too far off base by advocating for creating and managing your own website. Others on this forum seem to be successful with this. If you need a really complex site with shopping carts, etc. you should probably outsource this. Simple PayPal transactions can usually be handled with template sites.
I do agree, however, that it was pompous of me to recommend a scissorlift workbench.
As an aside:
Here is a trick that can keep your customer talking about your company for a long time : At the conclusion of a major renovation often times customers will invite different groups of people over to share a meal and celebrate the remodel. A perfect tool for them at this time is a photo album they can share with their friends. It could include pictures of your work and everybody else that worked on the house. This costs $15 to $75. A publication like this gives the host something to share and pass around while dinner is being cooked. Is a great value. You burn that much money up just reading my diatribes.
We are currently considering a better web site. No effort to sell from it but more as a place for people to learn about us. We don't sell at retail only to businesses. Very short story lines and good photos saying this is what we can do for you. Haven't decided on the DIY route or hiring. Either way it has to be very easily modified by us.
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