As entrepreneurs, we’re always thinking of the next Big Thing and what we may do in the meantime to create a system and process to handle the work generated in our businesses.
For many of you, this will mean using your website to handle basic business functions.
Here are some ideas for how to implement your process on your website and to use the site to do the work that you or an employee would have to do. Why have the human do the work when a computer can do the work for you?
1) Replace tedious hand-coding with auto-generated lists
If you are coding pages by hand and your list of items (be they reports, PDFs, articles, or some other numbered list) starts to grow beyond what you may reasonably keep up with, you are in a good situation to convert to an auto-updated list.
For example, one of our clients has years and years’ worth of PDF minutes and agendas from public meetings. Anytime a new meeting comes up, she must create a new page, link to the PDF, and update the long list of available files. There is plenty of room for error.
In this situation, we recommend converting to a Content Management System (CMS) and creating a “view” that will automatically update the “Minutes/Agendas” page with any files uploaded to the system. When you “tag” a file as “Minutes/Agendas”, a link to that file automatically shows on the Minutes/Agendas page. No more hand-coding! Less room for error! More time available to focus on real work, not tedious busy-work data entry!
2) Updating a sitemap automatically
Along the lines of updating code, if your sitemap must be updated from scratch every time you add a new page, you are in a great situation to convert to a CMS, too! With a database-driven site, your sitemap will be automatically generated.
For example, let’s say you have a category called “About”. Inside that category are two sub-pages, “Mission” and “Vision”. Let’s say you decide to add a “Values” and “Our History” page. With a content management system you would be able to “tag” those new pages as “About” pages, and the sitemap automatically lists those two pages underneath the appropriate “About” category. No fuss on your end beyond specifying that a new page is an “About” page.
3) Processing estimates
We use a quote generator on our own website to bring a potential user through a series of questions. Based on responses, we create an estimated cost, which they may print out or use in their own research. This tool saves us time and gives our potential client more control as they can change different factors and see how the price changes based on the needs specified.
Search is one of your most powerful friends, and can be one of your most utilized functions on the website. A search button gives your user the ability to review exactly what they need on your site. An equally helpful function is “related pages”, which will give your user a chance to see other pages on your website that match what they’re seeking.
5) Online payments
PayPal or any other online payment processor is an excellent way for you to receive funds immediately. Any kind of process that shortens your sales cycle is good — use online payments to assist your customers in getting started or paying their bill immediately.
I’m sure you can think of other ways to use your website to assist in your business. What I always like to do is think about tedious processes that I do all the time, and convert that to a web-based equivalent. In this way, we’ve continuously improved our own website so that people visiting spend 20 minutes average going through our materials, and then decide on their own if they will move forward with us or not.
What can you do on your website to shorten your sales process, increase your ability to share information, and help your customer?