Disclaimer: The FMANSW does not receive any payment from any of the resources mentioned in this post. All advice and information is provided in good faith. We do not accept any liability should you experience any financial hardship after following any of our recommendations.
In this series about “How to market your market”, we’ve looked at making the most of a Google My Business listing, paying attention to reviews and perhaps using their free website feature, social media and getting listed on tourism-based directories. Now, it’s time to get really serious with your digital marketing.
YOUR OWN WEBSITE
OK, here’s the main event. Getting a website is a big deal, but depending on what you want to do, it doesn’t have to cost a lot. There are loads of free and very low cost resources out there to build something simple yourself.
But you have to have a clear idea of what you want to do with it. If you want to build an something to take orders and sell from, get some help. Unless you’re really confident, get help. It’s absolutely within the realm of the possible to build your own e-commerce website, but if you’re not confident, don’t try it. Stall holders and market managers are busy people and you will find yourself spending hours of your valuable time trying to work it out with little to show for it but frustration and a feeling of defeat. It will only take you longer, when you could be up and running and recovering those costs a lot quicker.
That principle applies with any website. Whatever time and money you invest in your website, it must bring you a return on your investment. There is no point building a website then not using it. In that case, just go with the Google Business website and treat it like a brochure.
But if you want to create something that does more than be a brochure, sit down with a notebook and write down, sketch out and brainstorm what it is you want your website to be.
If it’s reasonably simple, then look into free resources like WordPress, Wix, Weebly and the like (Squarespace isn’t free). It’s not so much about what you use to build your website, the most important thing is what you say and perhaps even more importantly, the photos. If anything is worth spending money on, it’s photos.
Make sure you use original photos. Do not use photos you found on someone else’s website, not for anything ever. Google hates that and will penalise you with poor search engine results. You might even find a “please explain” email from the owner of the photos in your inbox one day. Even stock photos aren’t the best (although there are plenty of free stock photos you can use without taking photos from someone else). Take your own photos and learn how to process them even a little bit to give them some extra brightness and sharpness.
If you don’t have access to simple photo editing software, maybe invest in something like PicMonkey. Once you see the difference after you’ve made a couple of small improvements to a snap you took on your phone or camera, you’ll understand why prioritising quality, original photos is important.
Even just using the features on your phone to improve a snap is better than nothing. Instagram, for example, offers a lot more than just filters. Play around with the brightness and contrast in the “edit” function and you’ll see the huge difference. Then go from there.
If you need some graphic elements to jazz things up a bit, there are loads of websites that offer royalty-free images and vectors. Vecteezy and freepik are just a couple to start with. Just make sure you choose from the free options in the search results they give you. They also offer images that you pay for, so check closely.
You will almost definitely need something to edit images with when using graphics and vectors.
Basically, you don’t need to spend a heap of money – or any money – on making your website look good if you’ve got the time to give it a go yourself.
As with social media, your website is there to tell your story. The difference is that social media is instant and focuses on the detail. A website gives you the space to tell the bigger story.
Markets should be creating stall holder profiles (with photos) and listing contact details for the stall holders.
Stall holders should be talking about themselves and their products in depth. With lots of photos!
The Google search engine loves quality content. The more thought you put into your website and the more often you’re adding fresh content via your blog or a new stall holder profile, for example, the better your search results will be… and you won’t have to pay a cent for it.
The first step is to work out the name of your website. It needs to be short-ish, but still identifiable as your market or business. This can often be the hardest part. Then you need to register it. The best place to do that is Digital Pacific. This internet services company is Australian based, offsets all its emissions and offers fantastic support. Don’t underestimate the importance of support. When you call them with a problem, you speak to a person in Australian timezone who will talk to you like you’re a person, not a faceless website.
You can search on their website to see if the domain name you want is available and you can also purchase it there. Depending on the extension you want (.com.au or .org.au etc), the prices are all about the same price anywhere you go (from $15/year) and the service you get from Digital Pacific will definitely be worth paying for, if you find someone else cheaper. Just don’t go cheap… it’s so not worth it. But Digital Pacific is not expensive anyway.
Go here to get started:
A domain is like the street address for your house, but it’s not the actual house or the block of land. If the website is the house, then the hosting for the website is the block of land.
When you sign up for a free website with, for example, WordPress, they will give you a choice of a simple house to furnish and it will be located on their block of land. You can pay a small amount to “map” your street address (domain name) over the one they give you and remove the ads they insert within your website. Whether you choose WordPress, Wix or Weebly, this is pretty much the cheapest way to build your own website using your own domain name.
To continue the analogy, if you want to build your own house (using a bunch of prefab materials) on your own block of land using your own address, you will need to purchase a website hosting package. This is where good service becomes really important ie. Digital Pacific. It’s also where your costs start to sky-rocket. That’s why you need a very clear idea of what you want your website to be and what you’re going to do with it. Digital Pacific isn’t the cheapest, but they’re not the most expensive and are worth every cent.
Try to have your ideas sorted out before you start. If you start with something free and small, then discover you actually need something with a lot more features that a free website can’t offer, then migrating across to a fully featured, paid hosting service can be a pain. So take your time when thinking about what you want your website to do.
When it comes to paying someone to do your marketing work, if you’re going to do it, then building a photo library and creating a website would be where you would spend your money. Get help, if you need it, but you might be surprised how much you can do yourself for next to no cost.
Even with a self-hosted website (ie. you pay to have your own block of land), you can still use low cost plans with WordPress etc to create your website using templates and tools that are like building blocks anyone can use and they’re designed to work with each other, eliminating the need for any coding skills (if you’re keeping it simple).
Knowing how to build a website is a skill everyone should have these days, so if you’re keen, give it go. Just have a good think about what you want to create before you start.
Our last post in this series will discuss newsletters. There are number of ways to building your mailing list and your website is one of the main ones, so make sure you include a form or a link to a form for people to sign up to your newsletters.