These days, if your startup does not have an Internet website up and running, you are not ready for business or potential investors. Customers go there to check on the details of your offerings, investors look there to check out your management and sales approach, partners go there to see how they might fit, and suppliers expect to find contact information.
There is absolutely no doubt that the Internet is the answer to the small businessman’s prayer. Yet I was amazed to read a while back on the Selling To Small Businesses website that 51% of small businesses still have no website at all. These are the competitors you can beat!
In fact, you need to have at least a placeholder website published several weeks before you expect anyone to find yours since it takes that amount of time for the web search engine “spiders” to find you and index your content. I still remember my disappointment the first time I published my website, did an immediate Google search on the name, and it said my company didn’t exist.
There are many practical reasons for going to work early on your website. Here are a few:
- Register domain name and set up hosting. I’ve said many times that the Internet domain name should be reserved at the same time you incorporate your company name – they need to be the same, or highly related. Yet I still hear stories of companies being well down the road on products and collateral with a given name, only to find out that everything has to be changed because of a domain name conflict or availability problem.
- Websites are a big job and take time. I’ve also known startups who have worked for months on the infrastructure of their business – front office, manufacturing, product design, marketing, personnel, and sales – then started work on a website in parallel with their “grand opening.” Two months later they still didn’t have a website and didn’t have a customer. You should allow three months and at least $10,000 for the design, building, and rollout of your first site, unless you can build it yourself.
- Finalizing the website validates your product plan and sales strategy. Many founders find that building the website forced them to commit on the product design, set final pricing, define ordering and delivery procedures, and actually schedule and staff the marketing events that they had in mind.
- Viral marketing needs a website. Everyone knows that word-of-mouth advertising is an effective and important part of any small business. But word-of-mouth and viral marketing don’t work without a website. On the other hand, don’t assume that viral marketing is the only marketing you will need.
- The website can be a source of revenue. If your business and product are as attractive as you believe, the traffic to your website will build quickly. Now you should monetize that aspect of your business through the use of Google AdSense to display ads for related products and businesses, and get paid for the “click-throughs.”
- Your website will promote your business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Like you probably do, many people search for products and services on the weekends and in the evening. They are busy business people and very often this is the best time for them to concentrate on researching a new product or service. As a business owner, there is nothing more satisfying than having several orders and email inquiries waiting for you when you get up in the morning!
For the first time, you have at your disposal the whole world market for whatever product or service you happen to provide. Building the right website should drive the rest of your business, not be an afterthought. Don’t let yours be another startup that can’t be found.