Web Development for Small Businesses and Non-Profits

Over the last year, I’ve been working with two different local Squamish businesses to help with promotions and communications, including website design and social media strategies.  Mainly I started doing this work with the two businesses because the work that they do for the community is something that I believe in. I simply won’t do work for people I don’t admire and believe that they too are improving the world.

I’m happy to be able to share with you the two websites: Squamish Family Chiropractic and Tonya Motyka Massage Therapy.  For both of the websites I have developed, I used the same model that I use for my work in health promotions: show them how, encourage them to do it, help them do it and then let them do it.  In other words, I believe in empowering others and creating sustainability.  I believe in working myself out of a job, by creating communications pieces that actually allow people not to have dependency problems.

Listen up small business owners and non-profits:

Good communications people will not set up your website or social media to create a dependency on their skillsets.  If they do, then they ripping you off.

There are a few key areas that communications people need to do for you for your website. But beyond these two items, you should be able to “fly” without them (unless, of course, you’d like to simply employ a communications person part or full-time, which means your small business is really not small).

1.  Let Them Be Your Braggart 

Let me explain by talking about Tonya Motyka’s massage therapy. Tonya is a talented massage therapist.  In fact, she is my massage therapist and I’m rather particular about to whom I hand over my body to offer care.  While Tonya is a great massage therapist, she has a trait that makes her a poor communications person (no offense Tonya!).  It’s a trait for which I think is part of her personal charm: she is humble.

Humility is a wonderful quality.  But when you’re looking at writing content for a website or doing promotions, you cannot be humble. For promotional materials, including a website: you need to revel in the delight of telling who you are and what makes your services unique and wonderful.

So I’ve done up her website for her, but I had to write a lot of the initial content.  If you are anything like most small business owners, you simply can’t talk about how great your services are because you are too hard on yourself (and don’t realize you’re likely rather talented!).  Or  you might end up sounding like a cheesy sales pitch.  (And just to clarify: cheesy is bad, People only like cheesy on their pizza or if they’re in the mood for a sappy movie).  Instead, your communications person needs to hold a mirror up to show in your website who you are and what you do, initially, so that you can see where your skills are, and how to communicate those with authenticity.  But she’ll be able to use that content forever. Because she’s never going to want to no longer say she’s “talented” or that her studio is no longer “beautiful and peaceful.”

2. Let Them Paint The Canvas (but teach you how to paint)

I was impressed by a digital barn raising that happened in town for a local non-profit. It’s a brillant idea to see that they got this small non-profit an online presence.  I was thrilled.  But I was not so thrilled that it seemed that they did all the website in such a beautifully talented, highly skilled way that I’ll be certainly very surprised to see that website current in one year’s time.  This is something I see so very often happen to small businesses and non-profit organizations that hire a web designer to do their website.  It reminds me of a story I heard once (I’m not sure it’s true):

In the early 90’s there was a group of people from North America that heard about starvation in Africa.  They found out that it was because there wasn’t enough food being farmed.  So they raised money to fly over large, very expensive tractors to a small rural farming community in Africa.  About a year later, one of their members had raised enough money to go to Africa.  When he arrived in the small towns, he found the remnants of the tractors in various places throughout the rural town and starvation was still a major problem.  The visitor was shocked and angry, not understanding why these people had not used their generous gift.  That was when someone explained: while some of the people in the town knew how to drive a car (so a tractor wasn’t too difficult), there was no gas station in the area, no access to oil, extra parts or tools or mechanics for repairs.

The point is, communications people may need to send tractors, along with teaching their clients to fuel, repair, and where to find resources to deal with basic issues.  Sure, some additional consulting needs to be given sometimes for more complicated issues, but don’t let your communications person hold the paintbrush for life.

So while I launched Tonya’s website, I also developed it in a program that’s easy for her to use.  Then I taught her how to update the content because I’ve made it in a way that respects her current technical skills and respects her ability to update her own content for her own needs.

I have to say that I’m really rather proud of her new website.

Here’s the Before (just the front page, and there was only one other page beyond this one):

Click on the thumbnail to see Tonya’s old website- front page

Now go visit the new site: www.squamishrmt.com.

The new site, I think, better represents the look and feel that clients will experience when they visit Tonya’s studio. Bright and warm and welcoming. Not imposing or demanding. Clear, concise and peaceful.

Here’s to developing better communications for health practitioners so that they can improve the world!

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