Small Irish businesses aren’t taking full advantage of the web.
This is the first in a 16-part series of actionable, practical steps designed to help get small businesses marketing and selling online quickly and cheaply.
The first thing you need is a website.
Consider securing a .ie domain if aiming at Irish consumers, but do consider an international domain if there’s a possibility to sell abroad.
Domains are a commodity, so just look for the cheapest deals from the usual suspects like Blacknight, GoDaddy, NameCheap and so on.
To get the website itself going quickly we’re going to look at free or cheap platforms with design templates you can customise.
You need to decide if you’re going to be selling directly online or if your website is a lead generation tool.
If you’re selling directly, you’ll want an e-commerce platform like Shopify.
They have competition worth checking out, but they’re fairly typical of the out of the box solutions you can get that take care of hosting, payment processing and security.
Pricing starts at $29 (€27) a month and 2pc on every transaction.
Higher tiers reduce that fee and have more features. For design there’s a template store where you wouldn’t expect to pay more than $70, and an easy to use website builder tool to work in. There’s also a widgets store that can add functionality to your site, like enabling subscription based selling.
If you’re not selling, then good old WordPress is still the workhorse. Many hosting providers, like HostGator or NameCheap, do one-click installs once you sign up to their hosting plans; which go for as little as $39 a year. WordPress is less of a managed solution than something like Shopify, but again it comes with a deep hinterland of supported widgets and templates for your site. ThemeForest is one of the best places to find templates for your site, and most good options won’t go more than $70.
The trick to making a compelling website lies in the imagery and the copy, which you can write yourself. The template you settle on should have clear instructions for sizing images, but then it’s over to you to find free images, or purchase some, or use some of your own. There’s a vast world of stock and interesting imagery out there, from Flickr and Shutterstock to less well known ones like Unsplash or the Public Domain Archive. Explore and find images to suit your needs, and then use a free powerful Photoshop alternative like GIMP to get them in size. If photo editing yourself is too much, there’s an army of cheap freelance graphic designers out there to be found through sites like much, there’s an army of cheap freelance graphic designers out there to be found through sites like Elance.
In summary, secure your domain; set up with a Shopify or a hosting provider with one-click WordPress activation; purchase a template; get some images for it and write some copy; and you’ll be set up much faster than you expect.
Once you’re in the game, we’ll be moving on to how you find the resource and skills within your company to turn your digital strategy into success.
Ian Dodson is co-founder and Director, Digital Marketing Institute