Website Building Field Wisdom – Words from a Brand Visibility & Small Business Expert


The Best10WebsiteBuilders Field Wisdom series continues this week with a brand visibility, design, and small business expert. We interviewed Susan Newman of Susan is a highly experienced professional of all things web and branding. Her mission in life is to help small businesses expand and find exciting new ways to attract customers. We spoke with Susan about the key ingredients for creating a successful online presence and website.

words from brand visibility small business expert

How many years have you been helping small business owners?

Almost 24 years, now. I was an art director in publishing in New York. I moved around from one company to another like most people do when they want to progress their career. The last publishing company that I was working at collapsed. Most of the people that worked there were let go. It was a time in book publishing when one company was swallowing up another. It came to a point where there were fewer and fewer art director jobs. So, I looked around for a little bit, but I couldn’t find something I felt inspired to do and decided to start my own business.

susan newman small business

What is your specialty?

Well, I would say that my specialty is branding and the brand presence that a company has overall. For example, it is not enough to just make sure that a company has a unique logo. The logo should be meaningful, be right on target and have precisely the messaging and the feeling that the company wants to get out there. At the same time, they need to spread that branding throughout their web presence, and on their social media accounts. Everything should be in alignment and this gives them the ability to put forth a powerful brand. I help them brand themselves, so there is never a question a potential client is in the right place. Their visibility should be clear across the board. I am a graphic designer and have degrees in graphic design, web development, and sustainability. I swim in both ends of the pool when it comes to print design and website creation.

Do you think business owners are looking for quick ways to build a website?

Tools like WordPress and other website builders opened the door for clients. It’s given them the ability to follow through and manage their own sites. It does help for them to be able to do the small stuff. However, they are always going to need a developer at some point in their journey of maintaining a website. There are always times when something goes wrong with a site. And when something serious goes wrong they will struggle with fixing it.

One of the things that I see often is websites getting corrupted. It could be because hackers are trying to get in and there are also spammers. Last week I had to restore a website that was down and not only was it down, but the hosting provider had to change the theme to a different theme, to get them back up and running. I had to go back into the website and restore files. The site is all up now, but I am still noodling with it. I think that business owners do want more straightforward solutions, but a web developer is always going to be in the picture at some point.

What do you think small business owners want most out of a website?

I would say they want it to work efficiently, so if they wish to manage it themselves, they can. They don’t want it to be too complicated. Of course, they want it to look good. I would say the only real problem is there is a fine line between wanting the ease of being able to do the website themselves so that they don’t have to pay a designer and their site looking the same as everyone else’s. If you pick a theme that is popular, it will look the same as all the other websites out there. So, let’s say I open the website, I can tell you what theme it is based on my experience. My thoughts are, well, it looks nice, but it looks just like XYZ’s site.

I am of the mindset we should respect people who do things that we don’t need to know. For example, if I have a plumber over because the pipes are whistling, I hire the plumber to fix it. I don’t get out the wrench and try to do it myself. If I don’t know anything about web design and my business is to cut hair, I should focus on getting more clients so that I can cut hair. I’d pay a professional to do my website regardless of what platform it is. The web designer could still use a website builder like WordPress, and hopefully, they will recommend the right thing. I just think if more people were hands off, it would be better for everyone.

Why do you think business owners decide against creating a website?

I live in Jersey City, New Jersey and around here we have an enormous artist community with literally thousands of artists. There are tons of artists in this town that don’t have a website, and I don’t understand it all. I don’t know how an artist expects anyone to hire them, commission and/or buy their art, or go see their art if they don’t present it online. It could be that they don’t know how to promote themselves. I see all kinds of mistakes, and not just in the web area.

For example, this past weekend I attended JCAST which is the Jersey City Art and Studio Tour. I saw many different vendors at events, and I saw an artist with their work on display, and there was a leave behind, a business card. The trouble with their card is the art that the artist put on the promotional card had nothing to do with the art that was on the wall. So, you walk away from that, and you have a card that is never going to help a potential buyer remember what they saw.

They don’t have a website for these reasons. First, they might not have the money to pay a designer to build it for them, and second is that they don’t want to go with something basic. Also, I don’t think they don’t realize how cheap it is to build a website. They could just be uninformed about the process of getting a site up. If I told an artist or business owner they could create it themselves and it would cost around 100 bucks a year, they probably would get one. Maybe they just don’t want to do it. But they don’t realize how having the website can make a big difference. I wouldn’t have any business if I didn’t have a site. If someone searches for a branding designer in Jersey City, I am the first person they find on Google. People can find me and call me up. I mean, how else do you get business? You have to advertise.

small business and website building

What benefits do business owners get from using a website builder?

Wix is somewhat user-friendly, so the average person can build a website get it up and running fast. They can quickly sell their products or get their artwork online. I guess the advantage is they could do it themselves. But again it’s always going to come down to what that presence online is going to do for them.

What I am trying to accomplish for my clients is not just create a site that looks good, but it also is going draw clients to them. I know SEO as well and I can help them achieve finding clients. Since I know how to build it, I can help them name the pages right, put in tags and keyword phrases. If they do it themselves, they may not have the opportunity or might not know how to do that. They will name their homepage “home.” They don’t understand if they call it home, that this is not going to help them find clients.

I did a whole series of videos for eHow. About 50 of them were on the topic of WordPress. People can search all these videos and learn how to create title tags and learn other skills. If business owners are going to take the time to build a site themselves, then they need to learn a few things to do it right.

Do you have any tips for small business owners?

The best thing I would tell them is to make sure they are consistent across the board. Consistency should span across all their social media pages, websites and print marketing. Everything should look the same, have the same tone, share that same message and mission. They should remember there are thousands of people on social media and they need to post frequently. Even if it’s the same post, they need to post it again and again. If they wait a few days and post the same thing, other people will see it. They shouldn’t feel worried about posting too often. The more they post, more people will see the post.

We are very thankful for Susan sharing her insight about website building, design, and branding with us. We have a handy guide with some fantastic tips on how to optimize and maintain a great website. All small business owners can create a robust online presence and build their websites using a website builder. Having a great site can attract new customers and give existing customers a place where they can always find you as a small business owner.

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