Promoting your start-up business – Part 4 – Your Website

 

Photo by Peter Hires Images

Photo by Peter Hires Images

I write this with trepidation as everyone has an opinion about websites, what they should include, and what they should look like.

There are plenty of choices. Of course a lot depends on your budget, what sort of business you have, and whom you consider your target customers to be.

If you are selling stuff I would always recommend you talk to a professional web designer familiar with shopping carts and all the other bells and whistles required to make an on-line shopping site run smoothly. Ask around and get recommendations.

If you are mainly selling your expertise, I would still recommend you ask a professional if you are not confident with the free and paid-for software available to build a website, or if you simply do not have the time to do it yourself. It comes back to that old adage that you should concentrate on working on your business (that is doing what you do best) and not working in your business just trying to do all the chores. If building a website is a chore, don’t do it. If it is fun and almost recreational, then go for it.

There is quite a lot of free software available and most of the hosting companies have an assortment which can be installed automatically as you wish. I will not say that it always goes to plan. Sometimes you will need a support ticket because your host ran the wrong routine, but generally it works.

I do not have experience of anything other than WordPress. There are plenty of free themes available, and quite a few firms have premium paid-for themes you can try, but if you need a WordPress tutorial there are better teachers than I. Email me if you need help finding someone.

What about the content of your website? If you trade in a particular niche product area or if you are sell particular services or knowledge, you should post articles showing your expertise. Some people worry that if visitors to the website learn how to do something from reading your articles they will not buy from you. Actually these will be people who would not buy from you anyway. They will go away and mess up in an amateur way because they did not realise you cannot write the entire manual of your expertise on a website.

You will get customers who buy from you because they have a particular problem and they have read your articles and know you are the person to solve their problem. That is called content marketing. Writing in a niche attracts people who use the search engines to ask questions. Believe me, I know it works.

Talking of search engines, in WordPress and other website software you can get tools to help your Search Engine Optimization (SEO); to get your website found. You do have the option to hire an SEO specialist if you wish. As always, if you do not know what you are doing, get specialist help.

I believe virtually all businesses should have websites. They are our on-line brochures, they help us be found and if our potential customers have already heard of us, they can learn more about us. Then, when they call, they will have qualified themselves to buy already.

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Businesses should be careful what they say

Why the title? Well, some PR material you see on-line and off-line is quite discouraging to the prospective client or customer.

Quite often I need to look at the websites of firms of accountants, who, though they may provide the some of the same sort of services as my own business, you will know that I regard as colleagues. We are all earning our keep and often co-operation is an advantage.

I do shudder though when I see certain phrases. “We are the largest in Essex dealing with this subject”. Well, the firm in question has two offices. I would rather suggest the personal attention the client would have to ease their pain than plant in the mind of a prospect that they would be just one of many clients of a certain sort.

On another accountants’ website is “we have moved into prestigious new offices in the High Street”. That just implies they are likely to be expensive. I don’t suppose they are and I congratulate them on their success, but I would recommend them to emphasise the value and savings they can deliver to their clients and not crow about the posh offices.

There is another firm of accountants whose website home page has a photo of the partners standing knee-deep or more, depending on height, in a field of a mauve-flowered crop.

One’s first reaction is “what are they doing?” I suppose they want to appeal to the farming community, being provincially based, but the photo damages the overall impression of what would be quite a nice website. I confess I had a giggle, which is a shame because I think they are a good firm.

We all get things wrong. You could say about me “people in glasshouses…”. Go on, why don’t you? However, we do need to make sure that our offering is clear and valuable, and we do not have more than a few seconds of attention-span to get the message across.

Have you seen any mixed messages from businesses recently?

© Jon Stow 2010

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Business start-up planning and taking responsibility

Planning to start a new business is not easy. At the outset we need to have a real plan, and not just for the bank. We should be sure there is a need for our type of business, a niche we can fit in, and know who our clients or customers will be. Whether we realize it or not, we have to establish a team. We need our bank manager, we need a marketing person, we need a web designer, we may need an SEO expert and we need an accountant or tax adviser. There may be other people too in our team. If we are in retail then we need a supplier or several. All those we need even before we think about perhaps taking on employees.

We need to establish dialogues with each member of the team, and we sometimes need them talk to each other. Above all, we must tell them what we need from them and tell them what they need to know in order to help us.

All too often with new businesses I have seen them get into trouble or even fail because their enthusiastic owners simply forgot to communicate. They hate their web design, their website is not found because their SEO expert did not understand their business or they miss an important deadline relating to financial issues. If their advisers don’t know what they want, they have not sent them important letters from Government Departments because “they assume they would know”, and if the new business owners don’t understand the basic principles of running a business and do not ask for help, then they will probably fail, and failure is expensive in financial terms and for morale.

In the end it is all about communication. Tell your advisers everything, even if you think they ought to know. Good professionals generally won’t be insulted. If they roll their eyes it will be in private. At least you will know that they are in the loop. Leave nothing to chance, don’t be too part-time, and you will have a sporting chance of success.

Do you agree?

© Jon Stow 2010

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