For many small businesses, a website is one of the very first things that makes their business seem "real."  In fact, for the increasing number of small businesses that don't have a physical storefront, their website serves as their primary first point of contact for new business.  Even if you have a physical location, more and more potential customers will engage with your business online, before they ever do in person.


Here are 5 common ways small businesses screw up their website, and how to avoid them:

1. Not having a website

If you're not online, you don't exist to your potential clients.  A website is probably your most important engagement point with a potential customer, short of a face to face to conversation.  Even then, you can bet your potential customers are checking out your website before they ever have a conversation with you. 

By the way, a Facebook page isn't a website.  There's a lot of reasons why Facebook isn't an adequate substitute for a website.  For example, consumers tend to view Facebook pages as far less formal, and the impression of a company with only a Facebook page, is far less professional than one with a well designed website.  And if you needed any other reason, then consider whether or not you really want access to your online presence to be at the mercy of anyone else (i.e.: Facebook).

2. Not Making It Easy For People To Contact You

When customers come to your website, there's a few things they're looking for.  They want to know who you are, what you do, and probably most importantly - how they can get in contact with you.  Make it easy for your customers, and potential customers, to reach you, by including a contact page with your email, phone number, etc.  A lot of companies use contact forms, which is fine, but you'd be surprised how much more accessible you seem when you include your email address and/or a phone number (especially a phone number!).

3. Not Keeping it Current

There's nothing worse than a website that's completely out of date.  If the most current entry in your list of "events," is 4 months old, you're sending a message that you don't really care much about anyone who comes to the page.  Make sure your contact info is current (see #2), and if you are a retail establishment, make sure your website includes your current hours of operation.  Think like a consumer, and make sure that any of the information they may be trying to find on your site is not only available, but up to date. 

4. Missing The Mark

Your website should serve a purpose.  For most companies, the purpose is to be a tool to guide potential customers into a relationship with your business.  Think about the things that matter to them, and ignore pretty much everything else.  Resist the temptation to include features, pages and information that exist simply because it's "cool," to you.  

You are not your customer.  You already understand your product, or your company, or whatever.  Don't use language that makes sense to insiders, unless your website is only for insiders.  Carefully consider every page, graphic, link, and text on your site, and be ruthless about making sure it is geared towards your target. 

5. Designing It Yourself

Unless you're a web designer, it's probably a really bad idea to design your own website.  Sure, it's easy - there are literally hundreds of inexpensive options to build websites - but that doesn't mean it's a good idea for your business.  If your website is really the starting point for the vast majority of your customers, it's probably worth investing some time, energy, and money is getting it done right.  

Find a partner that can help you evaluate the message you want to communicate, and help you craft a design that represents - and reinforces your brand.  There's a saying, "you can pay now, or you can pay later."  You can pay a designer now, or you can pay in the hit to your brand, and business later.  Focus on what you do best, and find someone who can help you share that with your target market.


Your turn - what do you think?  Leave a comment below and let me know what every website MUST have (and what to avoid). 


"Brand" is more than just a buzzword.  It's a pretty common conversation among small business, to talk about branding, or rebranding.  But what does that really mean?  The reality is that most people don't really understand branding, especially for their business.   And managing a brand has gotten even more difficult now that social media creates a 24/7 stream of brand awareness. First, there are a lot of things that your "brand" isn't. 


It's not your logo. 

It's not your website. 

It's not your business card. 

It's not your photographic style. 

It's not your color scheme. 

Then again, it's all of those things - but not because of the reason you think.  Your brand isn't about what you say about your business (which is what all of those are for), your brand is about what you do, and the impact that has on people. 

In reality, your brand is "the way people feel about you and your business."  It's the perception they have, and the emotions connected, to all of those moving parts - and more.  Sometimes, those elements can help influence the experience your clients (or potential clients), have with your organization.  Often they help recall an emotional connection that already exists with a brand, but they - on their own - are not your brand.  The question becomes "how do I make sure my brand represents actually represents my values, and what I want my customer to experience." 

So what's the point?  Make sure the details (website, logo, etc), match the big picture (experience you want your clients to have) - but don't forget that branding is as much about creating the experience as it is about creating a logo, or website, or whatever.  If the promise doesn't match the experience, your customers won't believe anything else you have to say.  This matters because if you think that what your marketing really needs is a new website, or new logo, you might be surprised to find out that those things only reflect a brand - they don't define it.

Start by defining what your brand is... then create the details that help people connect with that.  Otherwise, it's all just a waste of time.  In fact, every time you make a decision about a logo, or color scheme, or whatever - that isn't founded on the promise you want your brand to stand for, you compromise the overall integrity of your brand.  

What do you think?  How do you translate your brand promise, into a customer experience in your business?


Does your business need a re-brand?  While the answer depends on a lot of factors, the bottom line is, probably not.  That's probably not the right answer, coming from a firm that specializes in helping companies develop their brand, but most of the time - it's true.


There are a lot of really bad reasons to “rebrand,” like wanting a new logo, or website. While those may be pieces of the outcome, they should never be what drives a brand makeover.  Instead, start by taking a look at two things: 1) what is the brand experience I’m trying to create for my audience and 2) what is their actual experience with my brand. When there’s a disconnect (i.e.: a company finds that the brand no longer resonates with the ideal client), it could be time to look at re-crafting the message from the ground up.

Here are 5 questions to ask when considering a re-brand:

1. What will it cost me?

I'm not talking about money.  Sure, hiring a professional to help you develop your brand will cost you money, but that's definitely not your first concern.  Much more important is what will a rebrand cost you in terms of equity with your existing clients.  Your brand is basically the way people feel about you and your company.  Your brand identity are all of the pieces that help communicate, and reflect those feelings through your marketing.  When you "re-brand," you change the identity - and often the feelings that are attached.  That may be your goal, but remember - you will likely lose most of the positive value your brand has built.

2. What's my story?

Probably the most important consideration in creating a brand, is deciding who you are, and how you want to talk about who you are.  Your ideal customers will be drawn to the story of your company or organization, and how you communicate that is really important.  I suggest that you write out the things you want people to know (and feel) about your company, and then refine that into a story you can repeat over, and over, and over.  Eventually it turns into a mantra, and you can start to piece together an identity.

3. Who is My Ideal Client?

Just as important as what you want to say, is who are you talking to?  Clearly define the ideal target customer for your business or product.  Often, the tendency is to create marketing that "casts a wide net," hoping to get as many fish as possible.  That might be okay if you cater to the masses, but many small businesses (especially service-based businesses) find they get a much stronger return on their marketing when they focus on building a brand around a specific ideal client.

4. How can I best connect with my market?

Once you've clarified your ideal client, take a hard look at every aspect of the brand experience, from the overall marketing message, to the details like website, print materials, communication policies, and more – and evaluate how to craft each piece in a way that creates a connection with that client.  Set aside your assumptions about marketing, and instead start with a blank sheet - crafting a plan that reinforces the brand experience you are trying to create. 

5. Can I Support My Brand?

Bottom line, do you have the structure in place to support your branding efforts.  Will your customers have the experience you promise, and can you sustain that over the long haul?  Is your staff trained to deliver the experience?  It makes no difference how pretty your website is, if every time someone enters your business, they encounter someone that couldn't care less about your customers.   Be sure that you've created a system to "make your brand real," so that the experience matches the promise.

What about you?  What are some of the things you recommend businesses consider when thinking about a "rebrand?"


When I talk to small business owners, I often hear the same questions: "should I redesign my website?" "we're thinking about rebranding, what do you think?" or "do I need a new logo?"  It's not that uncommon for small businesses to be changing their marketing materials on a regular basis - but is it helpful?



First, your logo isn't your brand.  Your brand is the way people feel about you and your business.  Your logo simply represents that experience.  Changing your logo doesn't change your brand.  In fact, it can often simply confuse it.  

Your brand is the sum of the experiences that a consumer has with your company.  It's based on the interactions they have with you, the quality of the product you deliver, and the way you make them feel.  The logo simply helps reflect the impression.  It's true that a poorly designed logo can certainly cast doubt on your brand promise, but...

Believe it or not, often a "bad" logo is better than a "new" logo.  When you change your logo, you cash in any equity you might have had.  Even if you don't love your logo, chances are your clients (and potential clients) hardly notice it - until you change it.  

One of the disadvantges of working for yourself is that you don't have to check off with anyone before making changes to things like your logo.  The end result is that creative business owners like to tinker and tweak away at things like websites, logos, business cards, and color schemes.  This prevents you from building consistency in your overall brand experience, and consistency is the most important key to building your brand promise.

In reality, there are only two good reasons to change your logo - to escape negative brand sentiment, or to reflect a major change in your business.  If you're making a major change, it can make sense to incorporate new brand collateral in that process, as you work with a professional brand consultant or designer.  If you've changed your focus (or found your focus) a "re-branding" can help clarify the story you're telling your ideal client, and reframe your marketing.

On the other hand, if your business has a high amount of negative brand sentiment, a new logo won't fix your problem - but it might help give you a fresh start when introduced along with changes to your business (see reason above).  If you don't fix the problem, there's no negative sentiment that can be fixed by changing your logo.

So, why are you getting a new logo again?  What do you think - I'd love to read your thoughts below: