So you’re starting a green business. Congratulations! Now that you have a dream, a business name, and a plan, how do you go from the initial idea to making that first sale? If you’ve done your homework, you probably have a marketing plan for your business (it’s wise to make it part of your business plan). One of the most important pieces of your marketing plan should be your company web site. Your web site will be the first impression many of your clients and customers have of your business, so it’s important to invest the time and money necessary to create a well-designed, informative, easy to use, and sustainable web site.
Not only does your web site offer you a chance to market your company, it’s also an opportunity to exercise your commitment to sustainability. One way to green your marketing is to make the web your primary advertising focus. Through e-mail newsletters, online ads, and promoting your domain name on all company correspondence, you can drive traffic to your web site and cover a lot of marketing ground without having to waste paper. Focusing your advertising efforts on the internet means less printed advertising, which means less paper waste and fewer pollutants released (the printing process and ink pigments create a lot of them).
Starting a document for web site planning is a good way to get organized. Start planning your company web site by thinking about the people who will be visiting it. Visualize and write down your web site’s ideal target audience: who do you want to visit your site and who is your ideal customer? Think about what you want visitors to be able to do once they’re at your site: contact you, browse your product catalog, maybe even make a purchase. The rest of the internet is only a click away, so how will you keep people interested so they stay on your site? What is the first impression you want to make? Research other web sites and note ones you like, whether it be for content, look and feel, or use of technology. Once you have a good idea of what you want in a web site, it’s time to consult a professional to help make your ideas a reality.
In this do-it-yourself world, many people want to make their own web site. While this may work well for sharing your family photos or a personal blog, designing your own company web site is not the best idea. When you need legal counsel, you consult a lawyer. When you need medical advice, you ask a doctor. So when it comes to the centerpiece of your marketing efforts and your customers’ first impression of your company, it’s important to consult a professional web designer or a web development company. Luckily for the ecopreneur, there are many like-minded design firms that specialize in green web design. Remember that a web site is an important investment with a lot of potential to grow your business, and you usually get what you pay for.
When discussing your new site with your chosen design firm, you’ll want to make sure you mention that your goal is to produce your site as sustainably as possible. You, or the company you hire, can find a green web host to host your site and register a domain name. Share your notes and planning documents with the design firm to make sure the resulting web site fits your needs and ideas. You may want to consult a copywriter (although many larger firms will have one at your disposal) to make sure that the text on your site is exciting, easy to read, and consistent.
Don’t be tempted by all the technological bells and whistles available on the web. Putting too much motion, new technology, and activity into one site can be overwhelming for users, but of course it all depends on your target audience. A good web design firm should be able to strike the right balance between the latest technological features and making sure your site is accessible to all. The site experience should make sense for the user.
Once you have a web site for your company, use it to its fullest potential. Promote your web site on business cards, in your e-mail signature, and in all your company’s marketing materials. Ask your design firm to make sure your site is optimized for search engines, and submit your site to online directories. You may even want to send a monthly or quarterly e-newsletter to potential and current customers to increase your site’s visibility. Also, be sure you keep track of your web site’s traffic. Many web hosts include traffic reports in their hosting packages. You can also ask your design firm to set up Google Analytics so you can watch your numbers and find out where your visitors are coming from.
Keep your web site up-to-date, whether it means having a company blog or adding new products and features consistently. Having new content posted often will also help your search engine rankings. Ideally, someone in your company, or your design firm, will be responsible for making regular updates to your site.
Web sites are an important business investment and a powerful marketing tool in today’s world. Make sure that your web site is as green as your business by making sustainable choices in advertising, web hosting, and web designers.
Read More About Creating a Green Web Site for your Business:
- Using The Web to Build Your Green Business
- Free Range Studios Offers Free Marketing for Worthy Causes
- Social Networking and Online Marketing for the Ecopreneur
Image: 2005 Map of the Internet via matthewjetthall on flickr under a Creative Commons license.