(WARNING: This is a longer post than usual. But I find this is such an important subject, that I didn’t dare short-change you. If this is too long for you, then maybe you need to read it later. And I think you will want to read it twice. Because getting this stuff right is what will grow your business. Ignoring this stuff is what will keep you struggling. This is critical stuff. It is only FIVE minutes long. Just read it.)
I have been giving talks to the business community a lot lately and I ask for a show of hands at the beginning with a simple question, “Do you have a website?” Surprisingly, not everyone does, yet they all are in business. And they came to a talk about growing their businesses. It’s a head tilting moment for me.
Keep your hands up: “Is your site your own site with your own domain name for your own business?” Some of their heads tilt. Some of the hands go down and someone usually says, I use Etsy or Facebook, or Shopify, or – Fill in the blank. “Isn’t that a website?”
Technically, anything with a URL is a website, but effective marketing requires your own domain name and website for several important reasons:
- You own it
- You control it
- It’s all about YOU!
Let’s break this down a little further.
You Own It
When I say, “you own it”, I mean that forever and ever, you have complete control over your domain. No one can change that. You can have one page or hundreds of pages of content, stories, blog posts, photos, products to sell, and even a shopping cart that you control. If Facebook makes a change to the layout of their page – YOU have no choice. If they make a change to how things work – YOU have no choice. If they decide to remove you from their site (it’s THEIR SITE) they can and you have no choice. Same is true for all sites that you do not own: Etsy, Ebay, Google +, Fine Art America, and many dozens more.
It happens everyday: somewhere, someone just got booted off of a site for some infraction. If the only location online where you can show off your skills and sell to the public shuts you down, it could take months to get traction and grow your name again. You may not survive at all.
I am not saying that you should not be on those sites if they suit you for selling your work. I am saying that you still need a place that is yours, and yours alone, where people can always find you and have that more personal experience.
You Control It
You need to have your voice heard without the filters and agendas of the big “commerce/social” sites. Facebook brags that logging in to their site brings the average person 1500 pieces of news and updates available to explore. If you are trying to create a trusted relationship, do you think that level of distraction will bring you closer to your clients? Do you find yourself going on an endless hunt for tidbits of information. Do you think you are the only one that roams aimlessly?
Is there a sense of purposeful communication about you and your service or product available when people visit your Facebook page? Does Etsy let you bring people to “your” site and only show your products? No. They totally encourage people to go and look at similar work!
Would you rent a retail space in a mall if the landlord required you to hand out a catalog that showed your competitors products for sale within walking distance (a mere click away!) of your store?
Having your own domain means formatting your personality into a place where people who want to get to know you can get to know YOU. If you want to use
BIG FONTS and BRIGHT COLORS
….GO FOR IT! Be the unique individual with a unique voice that makes you special. Don’t have your sole representation exist only in a rigid corporate controlled environment. Want a page filled with nothing but client testimonials – real ones, not likes or favorites icons? You can do that. It’s your site.
Again, not saying you shouldn’t be on social media or commerce sites. I am simply saying you need to have a quiet corner on the internet where you can speak directly to your clients and would be clients without distractions or endless temptations to leave your site.
It’s all about YOU!
This is a repeat of much that has been said, but it’s worth repeating: When you have your very own site with your domain, and where you maintain complete control, it is ALL about YOU.
Don’t have a domain yet? Do a search on Hover or Go Daddy to see if the name of your business or even your own name is available. If it is, buy it immediately. You may not be ready to build your own site today, but tomorrow the name you want to use might get purchased by someone else.
Domain names are cheap. Even if you are just getting started and don’t know when you will have your business up and running and needing a website – get your domain name secured. And consider (again they are cheap) buying variations. johnslumbersupply dotcom and johnsmithslumbersupply dotcom. largeanimalvet dotcom and largeanimalveternarian dotcom. Are those taken? Keep trying: lumbersuppliernewyork dotcom. newyorklumbersupplier dotcom. nyclumberyard dotcom.
Got a domain and not sure what to do with it? I might be able to help.
Got questions: post them in the comments! Or email me direct: firstname.lastname@example.org