Be True To Thyself, O Small Business Website

My wife recently fell in love with a store here in Nashville. It’s called The Fabric Studio and it’s located in an awkward gentrified building in a semi-industrial area of south Nashville near The Sounds Stadium & Gabby’s “legendary” Burgers.

I was impressed by how much care, attention and loving detail went into making it a totally charming, boutique, sewing shop.

See? Isn't the interior of the Fabric Studio charming?

See? Isn’t the interior of the Fabric Studio charming?

But, as well thought out and well presented the studio itself, I was shocked at the state of affairs for the online version of the business when I opened The Fabric Studio website to get directions to meet my wife there.

What a mess!

Mismatch Between The Real World & Digital

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man. – Polonius

I’ve always been amazed at the ability of small business owners to take an empty space and turn it into a quirky and charming extension of their personality. I know that hours and hours were poured into decor selection, painting, furiture choice all to give the business space a sense of identity that is molded and shaped to be ideal for their customers shopping experience.

You know you don’t have the space of a large chain store so you maximize your impact in what you have. I want to walk up to you and say “Good job, small business owner!”

Then I visit your website…if I can even find it. I want to walk up to you and say “What the heck, small business owner?!”

So what’s going on here? Where is the disconnect? Let’s take a look at their website in the same way as you seem to have considered your physical shop.

Your Homepage

The entire home page for the Fabric Studio

That’s it for the homepage…

I completely applaud the inclusion of directions, hours and address. Those fundamentals are definitely missing from many small business sites, so that’s great.

Unfortunately, your site like many other small business websites has forgotten to actually say what you do. You don’t communicate why your store is unique and why people should take the time to come to their business and make a purchase. I mean, that’s why your site exists, right? To drive additional customers to your physical location?

Unlike a storefront window display that entices customers to come in by showing off what you offer, visitors see an empty homepage. That’s a big missed opportunity.

Your Website Platform

Yes, there are premade site builders galore targeted at small business owners. They’re hyped as “turnkey” solutions to solve all your website needs in one easy, overnight solution.

However, you would hesitate if someone was offering a “turnkey” solution for your physical location, wouldn’t you? Certainly, that creative idea that’s in your mind that makes your business unique is not a “turnkey” idea.

Important note about SEO

Always leave a note.

There’s always a catch. With many of these small business site builders, there’s some hitch or problem like sites from Wix needing to bend over backwards to make it’s Flash based websites readable to Google.  The reality is that there is no overnight solution for a website. It takes time and energy to make your storefront match your vision, the same is true of your website.

Blog Not Quite Right

“Why you need a blog” has over 10 million search results, there are so many experts chiming in about the importance of this part of the site.

The content that should be published should be as polished as your floors, or at least as complete as your showroom floor. Your blog should definitely feature have more content on it than your Instagram feed, and be get the same level of attention to detail as your flyers.

How The Fabric Studio Got It Wrong On Images

Be sure to add a caption if you’re using captions.

Your Business Extends Online

The reality is that your presence or lack of presence online is now just as much a part of your business as your physical location.

You have to take the same planning and energy you took to transforming that empty rental space into your perfect business when you approach your website.

Working With Small Businesses

If you’re a freelancer or small marketing firm, you likely have come across many other small businesses who have not quite grabbed hold of digital marketing, what other advice would you give to the Fabric Studio or small businesses like it?

2 Comments

Brian

Start with a simple Google search for your main keyword (your product, your service, what you do). Look at each of the first and second page results. This is your main online competition. Go to each of these websites and make notes on their layout (what’s good, what’s bad), check to see if they have a blog (if yes, check for your keyword in their blog posts, this will give you ideas you can use in your posts) check for their calls to action (cta) which could be “call xxx-xxx” or “sign up for our newsletter” or “special offer”, “coupon”, etc. Check to see if they have a social media presence. Social media icons should be strategically placed on the website for easy reader access. These should include both links to follow the company on social media as well as links to share the business content on social media. Click on some of these social media icons/links and see how well that business is representing themselves on their social platforms. You may be shocked to see how poorly some of these businesses have implemented their social media profiles. This is your opportunity to take advantage of their weakness. Always look for both strengths and weaknesses. There are so many simple things any small business owner can do to gain an understanding of what works and what doesn’t, regardless of their technical design or seo expertise.

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