To build a website or not build a website. Unbelievable that there are still businesses that are still having such discussions with themselves. This post is NOT intended to showcase a strategy for why you need to go online. For those folks it might be time to take a nap, get some therapy or go on vacation! LOL.
No really, I am also amazed at the number of people who build a website with absolutely NO STRATEGY or PLAN! They have the mentality of the early internet, “build it and they will come”. It doesn't work that way and it never will.
So before you build the site here are some pointers to get you started on the right path.
My motto of life is “Enjoy the Ride!” Before you start any project remember it's as good as what you put into it. Put your best self into your web development project. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy leveraging the development process to look inside your company, your business plans, marketing plans, your heart and your soul for what it is you want to do. I find often times a web project with a small business leads to life counseling sessions. It's okay. Happens to the best of us! If it does it's a sign you care, are living your passion. If not, might be a sign it's time to jump ship on the PASSION train!
Don't let the “I don't have a marketing plan” get ya' down. Instead, take a step above your competition and build your plan. Make it a goal that your website will be the start of a new era for your business. If you do what you've always done then you'll get what you've always got!
Websites: 25 Tips to Get-R-Done!
1. Marketing and Business plan? If you don't have one then STOP NOW! You are NOT ready to build a website! Sorry folks. Why build a website if you don't know what you want to do, what you want to say, who you want to bring to your website and why they should care? Instead take half the money and get help from a consultant or agency to build the plan. Then use the other half to build a scaled down website. With the right plan you will obtain a positive ROI soon and can then further invest in your website.
2. Do your research. This includes all aspects of marketing and development. Includes target markets, segmentation, partners, competition. Know what agencies are best for what services. Identify key partners to expedite go to market and add value.
3. All web developers are not created equal. Just because an agency says they can build websites doesn't mean they should build yours. There are many fly by night agencies that can build websites. Some consist of a tech guy who only knows hot to write CSS, PHP and customize wordpress. He may be a great coder but may not know the first thing about ensuring your website generates business! There are few who can do both and chances are they are slammed. If you find one, don't lose their contact info!
4. Hire Experts! If any marketing, web, social media agency or service provider doesn't ask you what your goals are, RUN! Also included should be their ability to tell you the definition of ROI and how they measure such.
5. Don't settle for the first agency or service provider you find. There are many methods to building marketing plans, websites, executing social media and delivering an integrated marketing plan that will drive revenue. Your agency should be your friend, your trusted advisor. It needs to be a team or a person you can trust, share your deepest darkest marketing plan secrets and skeletons. They can only help based on what they know. Find someone you can trust and build a relationship with them.
6. Be Realistic. If you have very little budget then be realistic with what you can achieve. The worst thing you can do is set unrealistic expectatinons for yourself, your boss, partners and customers. Be real. Make the hard decisions. Assuming you have a plan it won't be so bad. You'll know you made the best decisions possible on the allocated budget. Starting somewhere is better than starting no where.
7. Don't lose the forest thru the trees! Don't just focus on the website and leave let the rest of the marketing fall behind. Instead focus on building an integrated plan that can maximize your investment across multiple mediums such as web, email, social media, offline and online advertising. With social media it is REALLY easy to get lost in the woods. That is why a plan is imperative. It is what will help guide you out when you find yourself camping for the weekend with the Twitter bird. Trust me, it happens to the best of us!
8. Ask for input. Do a quick survey of your customers, partners, friends and family. Ask them what they would like to see in a website. Ask them what their favorite websites are. Offer them an incentive to participate. You can give away a few gift certificates to the local coffee shop or their restaurant of choice.
9. Don't Just go for the Glamor! Your site needs to be more than pretty! Don't use flash just because you like how it looks. Instead focus on MONETIZATION! Ensure your web development partner knows how to build more than just a pretty site! Ask them what metrics they use, what tools they will integrate into the site to measure performance. How will you access reports, what is the frequency they will provide reports?
10. Focus on community building. We call them tribes. Determine who can help you spread your message once you do get online. What partners do you have that are already online? Listen to what they are doing in social media. How are they using the internet to drive their business and increase brand awareness? How are they integrating with offline marketing programs? If they have a storefront, how are they driving foot traffic by leveraging online campaigns or programs? Once you identify the top partner opportunities, reach out to them. Let them know you'd like to make them part of your launch. Heck, what company doesn't like a free link on a website? Ask them to guest blog for you? Ask them if they can participate in a short video.
11. Build a Social Media Plan. Don't just assume by building a Facebook Fan Page (or like page as they are now called) and Twitter account that you are now a social media expert. Instead develop a measurable plan for how and what you are going to do in the world of social media. Avoid Random Acts of Marketing (RAMs) and Random Acts of Social Media (RASMs) at all costs. A tweet is just a tweet as much as a website is just a website if you don't plan.
12. Content is Not an Option. Spend the time up front to build your brand, vision and value proposition if you haven't already done such. Brand is more than colors so just because you have a logo does not mean you have a brand. Your brand includes everything from what your receptionist says to the client when they enter the door to what goes on your biz card and email signature. No, you don't have to have it all perfect before you build a website. However, you do need to have a framework with some legs.
13. Content = Community. Assuming your business has something of value then there are people who want to read, hear, listen and learn from what you have to say. By developing your brand, marketing plan and messaging platform you are better refining your messages to your audience. This will maximize your investments across all marketing mediums!
14. User Experience Matters! Don't just throw content, social media links, tabs and blog posts to the wall like spaghetti and hope they stick. Instead execute to your plan. Focus on your core audiences, objectives, desired user experience. Remember you want as few clicks as possible. A call to action needs to scream at them from the front page. Do user testing, surveys, interviews with customers. Execute a quick focus group with your local chamber. Start a Meetup for community website testing and design. However, you have to do the research, just do it!
15. Build SEO into the DNA of your site from DAY ONE! Search Engine Optimization is not something you should patch on after the fact. Instead ensure you are building a site that will be easily optimized. Ensure the architecture of the site supports both your goals and the requirements of Google! Learn and understand how you can leverage social media optimization (SMO) to increase site ranking and improve website performance.
16. Get to Building! Once you have finally done your research, built your plan, developed your content now BUILD YOUR SITE! Don't rush it. Do it right. Ensure your development team has a plan with key dates and milestones. Ensure adaquate time for testing, pre-launch, launch, post- launch and post mortem discussions.
17. Announce your Site! Stand proud and stand on your fruit box! You've done the hard work so let folks know about your site. Announce it on your facebook page. Tweet about it. On your website announce your social media. The goal is to have fun, communicate the pros, the opportunities to connect and ensure your partners and customers know how they can benefit from your site. How will your site make their life easier? How will it help your partners grow their business? Communicate all in a series of newsletters, announcement at a local networking event or social network community page!
18. It doesn't end at Launch! Your plan should include how you are going to monetize your brand new and beautiful website. Remember building it does not mean they will come. You MUST have a plan to get them there and know what you want them to do once they do visit your site. You have only one chance to make a first impression so make it good!
19. Build Community! Don't assume this will happen organically. It will but it takes effort, focus and time. Ensure you have a plan for how you are going to build and foster communities. Your goal should be to build relationships that are authentic, and real. Educate your customers, help them and inspire them. Do this first and then second they will trust you and consider you when it is time to purchase your services.
20. Get Social Smarts! Determine how you are going to leverage social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn the most efficient way possible. Your goal should be to spend as little time as possible doing such. Take the time to learn the tips, tricks and tools that can save you time and money. Use tools such as HootSuite or Ping.fm to post tweets and blogs to multiple accounts with one click of a submit button! If you don't have time to do the research then attend a seminar, buy a book, hire an agency. Whatever you do, learn the tricks. The faster you do the faster your ROI will turn positive.
22. Don't Trust Everything You Hear! Website, marketing and social media are not one size fits all. Just because your neighbor did it one way and you did it another doesn't mean you did it wrong. Just like all things in marketing it is 50% marketing, 50% science. Also, half the folks out there stating they are website, marketing or social media “gurus” are far from. That's why doing your research and developing your plan is the #1 most important part of your whole project!
22. Don't Over Analyze! Once you start listening, doing research and getting feedback on your site it will be natural to have second thoughts. Don't over analyze everything you have done or wish you would have done. Instead focus on what you did right, how you can do better next time and how you can maximize what ya' got. Crying over spilled websites will get you nothing but lost ROI! Get up and Get-R-Done!
23. Learn from your experience! Document your experience along the way. If you made mistakes, note them. Ensure you don't make them next time. If you knocked it out of the ballpark then figure out why. Was it luck? Probably not! Chances are you did some things right.
24. Share what you learned! What a fun blog post series your website building experience could be to help other small business folks! Be real, be authentic and share what ya' got! Your site will need content, lots of it to rank well in the search engines such as Google. A series you can leak in over time will help you keep content fresh.
25. Take a Breath and Have Fun! Remember it is just a website! It's not life dependent. Though half way thru you may feel your blood pressure sky rocketing… take a breath, write a blog post and get a good night sleep. Don't worry, the internet will still be there in the morning!