The Brick & Mortar of Online Business: Having a website
When the internet was starting to grow in the ‘90s with more users, companies were making the leap to launch a website. Internet surfing was much more primitive than today’s searches, but having a web site was “the thing to do”.
With today’s age of the internet, it has become a go-to source for most people. It is readily available on phones, tablets and laptops, which many people are attached to at the hip. Google has become a verb. Whenever we need to look something up, we “just Google it”. Having a web presence for your business is a must, not a luxury.
I am surprised today, when I search out a business online and they still have no web presence! For many of us, we move on to the next business of interest and that previous business is forgotten about and just lost a potential sale. The T-shirt business is no different. It is competitive and there is always another T-shirt business down the street that can take care of potential customers if you don’t.
Owning a business is tough work. Not only do you need to learn the ins and outs of decorating custom T-shirts (which we have plenty of education on!), you also have to learn the ins and outs of running a successful business. How do your prospective customers find out about your apparel business? Is it word of mouth? Did they find you in the phone book? Do you have a website?
Whether you have an actual brick and mortar storefront or not, having a website is pretty standard these days. The cost of having a website is not what it was 10 or 15 years ago. Having a good-looking site doesn’t have to cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. It can, but you don’t have to. There are plenty of options on a tight budget, even some for free!
You don’t need to be a web programmer to make your own site. There are a lot of platforms out there to help you build a great site from templates that you can customize. For many of these sites, the templates are free. You just have to pay for your hosting – the place where your website resides.
A Little Lesson on Hosting
In order to have a web site, you need a domain, such as www.YourBusinessName.com. These are easy to get, a lot of times are free with a hosting company, or very inexpensive. Hosting your site is where you will need to pay a little money. You can think of it as your virtual mortgage payment (but is much less!). Your hosting is where your actual web site files are stored, so people can access them. A web site is much like a filing cabinet. Your site is made up of a lot of individual files within the cabinet. The cabinet is where your files are stored – a.ka. your hosting.
Hosting doesn’t have to be expensive. A simple Google search will give you plenty of options for companies that can host your website. You can generally expect to pay about $100 – $150 a year for hosting. Not bad. Typically, you can register your domain with your hosting company.
Once you have your own domain and hosting, you now have your internet “land” to build on. Like I said previously, there are several platforms to build a website, with little to no coding experience needed. Sites such as WordPress, Shopify, Joomla, Blogger, and SquareSpace, etc. all offer a way to create a web site. Some of these options do require a monthly fee to use their tools and features, but some are free. Many offer various free plugins or extensions to add to your site to enhance functionality, such as photo galleries, promo sliders, contact forms, etc. that can really spruce up the look of your site and give it that professional look.
Depending on what you are looking for, research which of these platforms may be best for what you wish to accomplish with your site. All of them specialize in different ways. Do you want to actually sell T-shirts from your site as an ecommerce business? Do you just want to post pictures of your custom T-shirts? Do you want to write blog posts? These types of questions will help you decide on the platform that is best for your business and goals.
[Related Content: How to Create a Website for Your T-Shirt Business Using WordPress]
Another option to get your T-shirt company on the internet is through social media pages, such as Facebook. Even if you have your own website, it is recommended that you still have a social media presence. It’s free, so why not? Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are all places where the people are hanging out, so these platforms are a good way to reach people. These are all free to have a business page on. You can connect with customers and prospects on a personal level and post pictures of your work as well.
Because social media is so popular and it’s free, there’s the temptation of only having a Facebook page, for example, instead of having a web site, too. If you are just starting out, this may be ok, however, there are pros and cons. Many professional marketing sources teach on avoiding this mistake of only having social media. Social media is “rented land” and anything you “build” on these sites, you do not own. The same is true for actual real estate. If you are renting an apartment and make upgrades to the building, you are only increasing the value of the property, which is not yours. If you move out, you cannot take that property value with you. So beware of what you are building on social media. Try to always point these sources back to your own website.
The Advantage of Being Online
In one word – competition. Because of the internet, you are not just competing for sales with the local T-shirt business down the street. Companies like Custom Ink are an online based business. Customers all over the country can order custom T-shirts from them. If you have a website, anybody can find you and do business with you. Not only do you have the whole country as prospects to find you, but the internet is where they are looking. If you don’t have a website, the likelihood of any customers finding you is zilch, zero, zip, naught!
People like pictures and the internet is very visual. Use your website and social media to post pictures of the custom T-shirts you have created and pictures of ones you are able to create showing ideas and inspirations. A lot of times, you can use the pictures and videos we create at Transfer Express with the Easy Prints branding. Use these resources to your advantage! Repost these items on your own website for your customers to see what you can make for them.
The internet is where people hang out and search for things they want to buy. As a T-shirt business owner, it is crucial to have a presence online for potential buyers to find us. There are many options to create a low cost site without having to know web programming and html code. When in doubt, “just Google it”!