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September 11, 2009

Top 10 tips for business website success

By Ross Gerring
  1. Have (at least) an idea of what your budget is for your website development – initial and ongoing.
  2. Clearly define (to yourself) your expectations for your site. More sales? Cost savings? More enquiries? How much, and by when? Ensure that your site has bold ‘calls to action‘ that will help deliver on these expectations.
  3. Get real. Ask prospective website developers if your expectations are realistic given your budget. Have broad shoulders, and be prepared to either reduce your expectations or increase your budget.
  4. The bigger and bolder your vision for your website, the higher the importance of planning in advance of a single line of code being written. Get a website planning expert to help you do this – either from within a website company, or an independent  website planning consultant (yes, they do exist). Expect to pay professional rates for a professional plan.
  5. Websites do not market themselves (honestly!). Do not allocate your entire budget to your website. Marketing of your site, online and/or offline (traditional), is essential *if* driving lots of prospective customers to your site is important. If it is, then seriously consider allocating at least 30% of your total first year budget on marketing. Some companies will allocate many multiples of their website budget for marketing activities.
  6. All other things being equal, you will get what you pay for. Larger companies will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their websites. Do not expect to get a site – or results – like theirs with a budget of a few thousand dollars. (see ‘Get’ Real’).
  7. Choose a reputable website development company that’s a good fit for your company.
    1. Proven track record. Hey, you might get lucky with a start-up, but remember that most new businesses don’t make it past 3-5 years.
    2. A portfolio of website designs that you like. Good design really matters. You only get one chance to make first impression.
    3. Of a size that should deliver a consistent level of service to you. 1 or 2 person companies need holidays and get sick from time to time. Is that ok with you?
    4. Low staff turnover
    5. Appear genuinely interested in listening to your needs and expectations
    6. Aren’t afraid to give you advice you might not want to hear.
    7. Are offering business solutions that match your requirements – not pushing package ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’.
    8. Perform the core work in-house. You will get better results if you can physically meet and talk with the people who actually do the work.
    9. Specialise in websites, as opposed to ‘also do websites’
    10. Can demonstrate that they understand what a ‘fundamentally search engine friendly’ website looks like.
  8. Don’t neglect business fundamentals. The success/failure of your business is determined by many factors, including how great your website is. Look after the following:
    1. Cashflow
    2. Having the right people on board
    3. Your passion for your business
    4. Knowing your numbers
    5. Customer service
    6. Great systems
    7. Reliable supply channels
    8. Sufficient margins/markup
    9. Effective marketing
    10. Access to impartial business advice
  9. Understand that there is no such thing as a perfect or a finished website. Every truly successful website is under regular development/refinement. This is why it’s so important to
    1. Choose a ‘good fit’ website company. Can you work with them on an ongoing basis? Do you share similar visions/values?
    2. Ensure that systems are in place, human and computer, to monitor and report on the performance of your website, and be prepared to tweak and tune your site over time to increase your success.
  10. Understand where your own expertise lies in the website development process. Let the experts in the company you’ve chosen do what they do best. Trusting them to do this shouldn’t be an issue if you’ve chosen wisely.