5 Tools Make Big-League Websites On A Budget

You can't afford to have an out-of-date website. Check out these budget-friendly tools to achieve a robust web presence.
December 22, 2011

An unpleasant moment for entrepreneurs occurs more often than it should. Someone asks for your business card, and you hand it over. They say, “Great, I’ll check out your site.”

“Ignore the 'Shop' section,” you say, “it’s out of date. And, the e-mail newsletter link isn’t working, but I can add you manually to the list if you want. And ... well, the design is a little embarrassing.”

By this point, the person who was excited about your product just moments ago is looking for a polite way to exit the conversation—immediately.

It used to be that developing a robust web presence for your company was expensive so it was often inaccessible to newer companies or those without large budgets for e-commerce or digital marketing. Today, thanks to the ingenuity of fellow entrepreneurs, this is no longer the case.

“You can operate at the same scalability and efficiency of a large company,” says Harley Finkelstein, chief platform officer of Shopify. “You may not know any angel investors—today it doesn’t really matter.”

Here are some tools that help make your company's website look like it has a giant team—and bank account—behind its online presence.

1. ReTargeter

Traditionally, running ad campaigns on large news sites in order to reach millions of potentially qualified leads is cost-prohibitive for anyone without a multimillion-dollar advertising budget (or at least a many-thousand-dollar budget). But what if you could narrow down the audience to just reach people who expressed interest in your product?

ReTargeter allows you to do just that. ReTargeter’s system adds a snippet of code to the pages of your site you’d like to track. You purchase advertising that shows up repeatedly for site visitors who have clicked on those pages. The system is similar to Google Analytics.

ReTargeter's reach extends beyond the outlets that some small business owners might be accustomed to.

“If they’re spending that sort of money on display, the real goal is to have access to more inventory than just the Google network,” says founder Arjun Dev Arora. “We’ve gone out and partnered with Glam, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and more.”

2. Shopify

Once upon a time, a few big players had a lock on the e-commerce market. If you wanted to sell your wares online, you had to play by whatever rules eBay or Etsy set. It’s obvious that today, any potential online-store owner can buy a domain name. But, then what's next?

Shopify was designed to answer that question. It's easy to create a customized, professional-looking storefront with little technical effort using Shopify's database of pre-designed templates. It also takes care of the backend, providing analytics, the ability to create special promotions and the tools to accept payments and track your orders.

Finkelstein names iPad cover designer DODOcase as a business that has leveraged Shopify’s resources well to make the company appear to have created a much larger footprint than it actually has. And that illusion has helped the company improve its bottom line.

“Today it's a multimillion dollar business—and they still don’t have an office,” he says.

3. SinglePlatform

Restaurant owners keep busy with their main objective: making sure good food gets to the table in a timely manner. But ignoring website upkeep and presence across social media channels means missing an opportunity to connect with customers and market to them.

SinglePlatform allows business owners to upload offers, menus and photos to a single platform. It then posts the content across social media channels and the company’s own website. Though the company began by serving the restaurant community, it has now expanded the offerings to all types of businesses—spas, daycare centers and even skydiving companies. Spend a few minutes of work a week, and you look like you have a dedicated staff for web and social media.

4. Unbounce

Want to create a special offer for the holidays to run on your site? What about five  special offers, depending on where your users are located? This effort could be a nightmare for whatever graphic-design resources you have on staff, but Unbounce lets you create various pages without tapping your tech team—it’s a system they say is just as easy to use as PowerPoint.

5. Grasshopper Group, Twilio

No matter how big your staff is, it’s impossible to always man the phones. But you don't want to miss a call that could have turned into a sale. Grasshopper Group enables you to create a professional phone system without the cost or hassle of an enterprise-level solution. Add extensions, pre-recorded greetings and hold music (an often necessary evil). When you do miss a call, you can receive your voicemails transcribed as e-mails for easy processing and forwarding to stakeholders.

If you’d like to incorporate text messages—say, notifying a customer of a purchase they just made over the phone—Twilio is an incredibly robust tool. The innovative API also allows for integrations and customizations.

Do you have any can't-miss tools for making your website more thoughtful and robust? Let us know in the comments below.